The Rev. Al Sharpton preached at a Methodist church in Camden on Sunday, telling churchgoers disappointed in the victory of President-elect Donald Trump not to fret, and encouraging them to overcome personal adversities."The question is not what Trump will do. The question is, what are we going to do?" the civil rights activist told the 400 people who filled Parkside United Methodist Church on Kaighns Avenue.
Sharpton, known for his fiery oratory, sported a burgundy tie and matching pocket silk. Speaking from the pulpit, he invoked Psalm 37 repeatedly, telling the crowd in the two-story church to "fret not thyself" over the presidential election results.
"I'm not fretting Donald Trump. I made it through Nixon," said Sharpton, 62, to the amusement of some congregants. A staunch ally of President Obama's, Sharpton said the American people would now have to fight to preserve Obama's achievements.
"This is not a battle about parties," it's a battle about principles, said Sharpton, who went on to advocate for the Affordable Care Act, a fair criminal justice system, and improved education in Camden.
Sharpton promoted his "We Shall Not Be Moved" march for civil rights, scheduled for Jan. 14 in Washington, two days before Martin Luther King's Birthday, and six days before Trump's inauguration.
The Baptist minister also urged churchgoers not to distress over personal struggles.
"God judges us by how we handle defeat. . . . Your job is just to do good," he said, imploring congregants to stay positive in times of financial and familial crises.
Sharpton, a Brooklyn native who started preaching at the age of 4, has spoken at several churches in Camden over the years. But this was his first time preaching at the 102-year-old Parkside Church, which was celebrating the third Sunday of Advent, the beginning of the liturgical year for Christians.
"Rev. Sharpton is many things - a civil rights icon, a social justice leader - but at his core he's a preacher," the Rev. Keith D. Dickens, 53, senior pastor, said in an interview.
Dickens said he emailed Sharpton several months ago inviting him to preach at the church. "It's a great day for Parkside," said the pastor, noting many in the community were surprised the host of MSNBC's PoliticsNation would participate in their Sunday service.
After the sermon, Sharpton sold and signed copies of his book The Rejected Stone. And following the service, several congregants praised Sharpton's sermon.
"It was an uplifting message," said Paula Bryant, 53, of Sicklerville.
Rondald O'Neill, 66, of Mount Laurel, described Sharpton as "an inspirational speaker and transformational leader."