Strengthening the Spirit of Our Community

Bringing the Easter message home to 800-plus local leaders on Good Thursday morning, Barry Black, 62nd Chaplain of the U.S. Senate and guest speaker for the 19th Annual YMCA of Central Florida Celebration of Prayer breakfast, asked the audience “How many of us are carrying a cross we did not choose to carry?” In asking the thought-provoking question, Chaplain Black challenged guests not to respond to life with indifference, but rather, to embrace challenges as opportunities for spiritual growth. As author of From the Hood to the Hill, Black said his difficult childhood in inner-city Baltimore often left him angry. But the experience also fostered his strong faith and determination to succeed. As a scholar, spiritual leader, retired U.S. Navy Rear Admiral and the first black Senate Chaplain in U.S. history, Black also participated in Q&A with community leaders following the event. (See below for his surprising answers.) Also speaking during Celebration of Prayer was Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs, who said “this event brings people together from across the region. We are a community with tremendous responsibilities…and the Y is the glue.” In delivering the Prayer for Youth Development, Dr. Barbara Jenkins, Superintendent of Orange County Public Schools, said “I look to this event and find inspiration in what you do.” With Florida Hospital serving as the event’s lead sponsor, David Banks, Senior Executive Officer at Florida Hospital, offered a prayer for Healthy Living. YMCA Board Chairman Helen Ryan thanked guests for attending and supporting the Y’s Christian mission. And Mosaic Church lead pastor and YMCA of Central Florida Board member Renaut van der Riet, closed the event with a prayer for Social Responsibility. In speaking later with local leaders, YMCA of Central Florida President and CEO Jim Ferber, urged greater collaboration. “We have enough people here today to change the trajectory of where our country is going.”   For additional photos and a video of the event, click here.   CHAPLAIN BLACK’S THOUGHT PROVOKING Q&A Following the breakfast, Chaplain Black also participated in a Q&A session with local leaders. Below are a few of his remarks:   Q: How is it to advise some of the top leaders in the world? A: You have to keep it in perspective no matter what they are dealing with – sequestration, global issues, etc. We have 30 to 35 Senators join us for a weekly prayer breakfast. You don’t see these on CSPAN, but the leaders are there with us, holding hands with us at the end of each prayer breakfast. We have over 150 in just one of our weekly Bible studies, so there are enough people sighing and crying up there to keep God in charge. I have great concern for our nation with people moving toward secular humanism and away from the Biblical law of God. But, the power of God is in control of the future.   Q: As a religious advisor to the Senate, how do you handle the separation of church and state? A: I make sure I don’t provide any ammunition for appearing that I don’t uphold pluralistic inclusion in my work there. I invite various religions to join us, including a Hindu priest and a rabbi, to reinforce the point that we are aware of the spiritual needs of all people.   Q:  Do you not get weary in what you are doing? Is partisanship taking a toll on you? A: Not unlike the story in Mark 13, some seeds make it and some do not. We cannot be weary in what we are doing. I try not to remember the political persuasion of the Senators until it is revealed via something they may say that gives it away. We have a group of Senators in our Bible study who work to prevent gridlock of the “Gangs” at critical points.   Q: As a legal immigrant, I am interested if you have prayed over the immigration issue? A: I have prayed about it and share with people that the issue is similar to the parable of the judges in the book of Matthew 25 where we are commanded to take in strangers. It is top of mind now in D.C. because God arranged a political climate conducive for it. I think reform is going to happen.   Q: If we were to pray for the Senate, what should we pray for? And what else can we do? A: Our lawmakers do their best, but some need revelatory knowledge. Pray for our favor with other nations and for an outpouring of the Spirit of God.  We’ve lost the war on poverty. I went to one of the largest federal prisons and just wept about our industrial prison complexes filled with a majority of minorities. Our churches need to do some spiritual warfare, to keep doing things for the incarcerated.   Q: When did you realize you had a gift of memorization/a photographic memory? A: When my sister had to memorize the Gettysburg Address for school, she was struggling and I didn’t understand why it was so hard. At 4 years old, I recited it for her word for word.