Aric Flemming MDiv II speaks at Morning Prayers about the new Black Student Ministries at the Memorial Church. Photo by Jeffrey Blackwell/Memorial Church Communications
My brothers and sisters, my family, and my friends, the time has come for the emergence of a new and glorious thing, and that thing, my friends is a new student ministry through the Memorial Church entitled Black Student Ministries at the Memorial Church.
I can already hear you asking, “What is this ‘thing’ he speaks of?”
So, I will do you the honor of offering for you clarity regarding this glorious venture that the Memorial Church of Harvard University has inevitably embarked upon. Lest I allow you to linger in ambiguity!
If I were a reporter, I would read it this way:
In October of 2017, on a bright and sunny Sunday Morning during our corporate worship hour, I received an email in my inbox requesting help for a new and emerging student-led worship service that was then under construction and was soon going to be launched for the entire University, unofficially. A group of graduate students gathered together and planned to begin a Harvard collective worship service for the entire University under the influence of the African American charismatic church tradition. A service of trans-denominationalism, infused with an ecumenical Christian praxis, a deep courageous ancestral reflection about black faith at Harvard. Yes, this Group is black. Black from the top of their heads to the souls of their feet, undeniably, unequivocally, unapologetically black and unashamedly Christian. Then they were called “Joyful Noise!”
But they were ambitious, contagious, courageous, and clear enough to see that Harvard’s resources alone could change the economic climate of a deserted land, let alone a start-up collective student service, so they sought and pondered. Who can we run to help this dream become a reality?
They wanted to be, exist, and operate under the auspices of something greater, something more established, something more substantive in nature and what better place to look than the space of grace at the center of Harvard Yard.
The Memorial Church of Harvard University decided to take them on and to let them flourish. Much like our God, the church gave them a new name and a new identity that would capture populations to come long after we are dead and gone. And their names shall be called “Black Student Ministries at the Memorial Church of Harvard University.”
And now after many meetings with the Memorial Church, through much prayer and fasting, much selection and rejection, much planning and debriefing the time has come, and history has been made at Harvard University.
The first Black Student Worship Service through the Memorial Church in the University’s history is just beginning to rise.
They were officially launched on January 25, 2018, in the Pusey Room of the Church with a turnout of over 200 students of African descent joining in the singing and communion of laughter, soul-driven southern dishes to feast upon, rejoicing with one another because they believed, “We finally got a seat at the table.” And they plan to reconvene every other Sunday for a small intimate worship service in the Buttrick Room.
Hello Boston!! We finally have a student worship service. Tis the season for new things at Harvard University! Congratulations are in order to the Memorial Church!
And just because they needed a liaison, someone who would be willing to deal with the dramas of a prestigious institution, I just so happened to be in the right place at the right time for the right season, and now am honored to serve as the Seminarian for this project, called Black Student Ministries at the Memorial Church of Harvard University.
There were a few bumps and bruises along the way. The joy and the journey of serving in this role has not been completely pleasant. Today, I can surely declare that this is only the beginning for me. This is only the beginning for you. This is only the beginning for Black Student Ministries, and only the beginning for the Memorial Church — as long as the seasons continue to change!
I gotta admit that I’ve always known God had amazing plans for my own life, but starting a worship service for the University was not my dream. That was God’s dream because my dreams were too small for this!
There have been many doubts in my life and time, and I can truly say that God has consistently disproved them, standing with me every step of the way.
Much like the story of the young boy who was at school once, and his teacher told him to answer the question, “What is God’s name?” and the boy replied, “God’s name is Andy!”
“That’s not his name. That's not what we taught you, I’m calling your mother.”
When his mother arrived at school she asked him, “Son, I did not teach you that God’s name was Andy. What is God’s Name? And you better say what I taught you.”
And he replied, “God’s name is Andy!”
And she said, “Why do you continuously respond, calling God ‘Andy’.”
And he said, “Well, Mother, every night before we go to bed, I always hear you sing the sweetest of songs, and it sounds like this.”
(Singing) “And he walks with me and he talks with me and he tells me I am his own. What a joy we share as we tarry there. None other has ever known.”