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Still I Rise: Religion in the black community

The part the black church played in the black community
New Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church
New Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church(KAIT)
Published: Feb. 28, 2022 at 1:07 PM CST
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JONESBORO, Ark. (KAIT) - On a Sunday in many Black communities you can hear the hymns, handclaps, and prayers enslaved Africans brought with them to America.

After the enslaved interacted with Christian missionaries, Christianity spread throughout the community.

“The black church has always been such a critical part of the black community and the community period, but especially the black community,” said Adrian Rodgers, pastor of Fullness of Joy Church.

The argument of whether the Black church has helped or hindered the progress of African-Americans has been debated for decades.

Various research found it is a vital part of the black community.

“When the black church is specifically performing as it should, they keep the community together,” said Ray Scales, founding pastor of New Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church.

Since slavery, there has always been some semblance of religion in the Black culture.

“They had to pray into pots,” said Scales, explaining how Africans used religion and church as an escape from the hardships they were dealing with at the time.

Scales grew up in the church and watched it move mountains for his community.

“The churches opened their doors. We opened our doors to the community and all the activities,” he said. “No matter where we were going and where we were coming from, we ended up back at the church. That’s where we ended up.”

The church is also known for being heavily involved in helping Black people get the right to vote and other political movements.

It was a center point of the Civil Rights Movement, the Voting Rights Act, and other social changes that allow many freedoms African Americans enjoy today.

“When they were doing the poll tax, the leaders of the community, the black community, would call a meeting and they would meet at our church,” said Scales.

“There was a judge that needed to come out of the office and so our church became a rallying point,” said Pastor Adrian Rodgers of Fullness of Joy Church in Jonesboro.

Rodgers, who also grew up in the church, explained why the church was so vital to the growth of his community. He said it was one of the only places African Americans could feel at home outside of their home.

“Kind of in a way to escape what we may be facing but also getting information about how to handle what we are dealing with and what we are facing,” he said.

The resilience of African Americans through slavery and racial discrimination was grown in the church.

Today, the Black church includes eight denominations and serves millions across the country.

“The Black church is still where it needs to be,” said Scales. “It has grown.”

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