Surely Goodness and Mercy Shall Follow Me

African-american-church-religion

As I reflect on this past weekend’s tribute to “Bloody Sunday” of 1965, I am reminded of my childhood growing up in Alabama. I grew up a Southern Baptist in the Black Church community. And it was truly that, a community. I attended church on Sundays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays (also known as college football. Yes down south it’s a religion!)  Needless to say the church had a profound influence on my life.

Apparently, I’m not alone. A study by the Pew Research Institute reports that “of all the major racial and ethnic groups in the U.S., blacks are the most likely to report a formal religious affiliation.” And while not all blacks are affiliated with a particular religion or church (12%), more than 70% report religion as somewhat or very import in their life.

The black church has always been the backbone of the black community. We come together when there are social and civil rights matters that need to be addressed. As I grew older, I began to explore the role of the black church on issues such as teen pregnancy. For a long time the church has remained silent on issues such as teen pregnancy, STIs, and HIV. However, with black women contracting HIV at faster rates and the racial and ethnic disparities persist in the teen pregnancy rate, now more than ever is the time for the black faith community to come together and address the needs of our young people.

So where do we begin?

  • As many grandmothers have stated, the way you say something is just as important as the message itself. Our message should go beyond reducing the teen pregnancy rate but rather “Strengthening the Black Family.” By strengthening the black family, the approach is broader. The focus includes education, health and wellness, and wealth.
  • Take ownership of what is occurring in our community. While this issue may sound like more bad news. The reality is we’re moving in the right direction. So let’s keep the momentum going!
  • Lastly, remember the words that we so often hear from the pulpit. “Grace” and “Mercy” is more than just rhetoric; it’s what we practice. It’s a hymn from our heart “When darkness veils His lovely face, I rest on His unchanging grace; In every high and stormy gale, My anchor holds within the veil.”

We’ve come along way but we have ways to go and together our impact will be great. 

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Thank you for posting this important piece. I am not black but I am the mother of an adopted black infant from a young mother with an unintended pregnancy and I work in the family planning world. We do need to do a better job of engaging the faith community in the discussions and in the actions to strengthen healthy families. I think in primary care we are limited by how much we can do to address social determinant of health that go beyond the clinic setting where we do the family planning engagement. How can family planning providers better engage faith communities and community organizations that are working to address social determinants? How can we break down primary care and public health silos to address unintended pregnancy? May His grace and mercy truly cover and lead us to make a better change.