Community Updates

Preparing for Worship: Good News for the Enslaved?

John Haralson
May 5, 2023

The Blind Boys of Alabama"Welcome Table"

Rev. James W.C. Pennington (1808-1870)
Source: National Abolition Hall of Fame & Museum

Is the word of God silent on [the subject of slavery]? I, for one, desire to know. My repentance, my faith, my hope, my love, and my perseverance all, all, I conceal it not, I repeat it, all turn upon this point. If I am deceived here−if the word of God does sanction slavery, I want another book, another repentance, another faith, and another hope! I speak very reverently, and from a deep and mournful reflection.
Rev. James W. C. Pennington, “A Farewell Sermon,” Nov 2, 1845
(Rev. Pennington was a former slave and the first known Black student to attend Yale)

         Note: No Christian Formation this week! (Men's Retreat)
                  Sunday worship at 10:15 AM (childcare thru 2nd grade available)

                  In-person worship and live stream
Dear Grace Family,

Ephesians 6 is jarring to our hearts and minds. When Paul begins to interpret Jesus' story to 1st century slaves in Ephesus, he tells them this:

        Slaves, obey your earthly masters
         with respect and fear,
         and with sincerity of heart,
         just as you would obey Christ.

                                      (Ephesians 6:5)

Some Christians have used this text to justify slavery. Others, concluding that this text is God's tacit endorsement of slavery, assume that either Paul got it really wrong her or have concluded that they want nothing to do with Christianity. As the quote from Rev. Pennington indicates, he also—a former slave himself turned Christian minister—would have been in search of another god if he concluded that the Bible endorsed slavery or was, at best, silent about it.

The stakes are high with a text like this, and our emotions are understandably very close to the surface.

What if there were a different way to read this text?

Paola Brown—also a freed slave writing in the time leading up to the American Civil War—contemplated the closing verse (Ephesians 6:9) of this small section of Scripture and came to this conclusion:

         A man who kept this constantly before his mind
         would not long remain a slaveholder.

I believe this text doesn't just leave the institution of slavery untouched and intact. Instead, Paul is very shrewdly and boldly planting the very seeds that will ultimately lead to its overthrow. In other words, I believe this text is actually good news for the enslaved and the enslaver.

I hope to worship with you Sunday!

This Sunday: Ephesians 6:5-9 (NIV)

“Good News for the Enslaved?"

Here is the Order of Worship.

Warmly in Christ,


P.S. No Christian Formation this week because of the Men's Retreat!