On the first Sunday after an exceptionally divisive presidential election, some area pastors talked about a new beginning, while coronavirus precautions and church traditions kept the emotionally loaded vote out of other sermons.
Ministers at several predominantly African American churches said they were hopeful, but also talked about the need for continuing political action. “The real work of building the new world that we would like to see begins now,” the Rev. Alyn E. Waller, senior pastor of Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church in North Philadelphia, told his congregation. Waller posted Facebook lives on the Bible and civic responsibility every day for 30 days before the election.
“We just affirmed that this is the beginning of a new season in the life of our country,” he said Sunday. “We were very, very excited about the election of Joe Biden and the historic election of Kamala Harris.”
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The Rev. Tamieka N. Gerow, a visiting minister who gave the primary sermon at Enon during a women’s service, spoke primarily about “defiant joy” — finding hope and light amid grief and loss. But she also mentioned her pride that her AKA sorority sister, Kamala Harris, is vice president-elect. “This is a wonderful time to be a woman and particularly a woman of color,” she said. “Our people have gone from building the White House to helping to lead the White House.”
She sees a need for healing and recognition, tasks at which women excel. “I absolutely believe that [Harris] is the woman for the job," she said.
The Rev. Mark Tyler, pastor of Mother Bethel AME Church in Philadelphia’s Society Hill neighborhood, said that he and members of his church felt hopeful, but that some were disappointed that so many Americans, particularly white Americans, continued to support President Donald Trump. “We felt like America would be more on our side to repudiate hate speech, fear-mongering,” he said. “... The jubilation is tempered by that reality, and that reality is extremely disappointing and hurtful.”
He used the lives of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris to talk about a “new chapter” on Sunday. In Biden, he saw “patience born out of suffering and great loss” and, in Harris, he saw the result of the perseverance of many women before her. “You can’t give up,” he said.
He also talked about how “God is always surprising us with something different.” Philadelphia prepared for the election aftermath with boarded-up windows and the National Guard on standby, he said. “Instead, people started dancing in the street. We didn’t need cops or the National Guard. We needed DJs.”
On Sunday morning, Biden attended Mass in Delaware with his family. Trump visited his golf club in Virginia.
Two ministers — the Rev. Cory Jones of Tabernacle Baptist Church in Burlington and the Rev. Keith Dickens of Parkside United Methodist Church in Camden — said that, because of coronavirus precautions, their services were filmed before news organizations called Pennsylvania for Biden.
Jones said his recorded message was, “We’ll be OK. We’ve been through difficult times before.” That would have held, no matter who won. He’s still formulating what he’ll say later this week, but thinks it will be that “God will take care of us. All will be well, and God’s mercy endures forever.”
Dickens hadn’t told his congregation who to vote for, but he has talked a lot about the importance of voting. In the sermon he recorded on Friday, he didn’t say anything about the election. This week, he’ll turn to continued political engagement in issues that matter to the congregation, such as violence and police brutality toward Black people. “It just doesn’t stop here,” he said. “We have to encourage our elected officials and help them to do what they said they were going to do.”
Meanwhile, the Rev. Dan Morrison, pastor of Huntingdon Valley Presbyterian Church in Montgomery County, said he never talks about politics and made no exception on Sunday. He described his church as evangelical and conservative. “It’s very much a part of our culture that we do not mix politics from the pulpit,” he said.
He said there were people in his congregation who were celebrating the election, while others were disappointed or “just relieved.”
Morrison talked Sunday about Peter preaching to a Roman centurion, as his congregation expected. “We’re on a longer timeline than the news cycle,” he said. “We’re about eternity.”
The Rev. Tom Heron, pastor of St. Matthews Roman Catholic Church in Conshohocken, talked about the election Sunday without ever saying the word. “People knew that I was making reference to it,” he said. “I’ve been here 9½ years.”
His was a complicated message that used the parable of five foolish virgins and five wise virgins to talk about being ready for the divine. The foolish virgins had not prepared for the coming of the bridegroom, Jesus, and were caught off guard. Wisdom, Heron said, involves living with truth, goodness, beauty and unity. In this case, the wise virgins thought to have extra oil around for a night meeting. The foolish virgins were “spiritual freeloaders” who sought to borrow the unborrowable.
“The unskippable step is you have to be alert, you have to be attentive, you have to be informed,” he said.
He did not use names. “We live in a country that is deeply divided,” Heron said. “Is it divided foolish and wise? Is it divided prepared and unprepared?”