Have Faith: Spirit of summer

Get inspired by the spiritual injection the season brings.

Rev. Dr. Frederick Douglass Haynes III, senior pastor of Friendship-West Baptist Church in Dallas, will preach at Union Chapel this Sunday. —Courtesy Friendship-West Baptist

Summer is a good time for faith nerds like me. Oak Bluffs especially offers some great guest preachers, and summertime events that inspire everyone who manages to get to them. Union Chapel, that lovely acoustic gem of a space on Narragansett Ave., hosts many Sundays full of extraordinary speakers. 

Besides the visiting summer guest preachers, Juneteenth brings a special guest, the Rev. Dr. Frederick Douglass Haynes III from Friendship–West Baptist Church in Dallas on Sunday, June 23, with doors opening at 9:30 am, and the organ prelude beginning shortly before 10. The list of Haynes’ accomplishments is at least arms-length. He’s an activist and community leader who, his church’s website says, “has formed alliances with local and national community leaders and city, county, state, and federal officials to fight social injustice, domestic violence, and poverty. He also worked with the Center for Responsible Lending to fight economic predators in Texas and across the nation that engage in predatory lending.” 

This is really the thing for me every summer. The clergy and educators who come here are those who have made remarkable strides within their own communities, setting up programs and projects that have real impact where they live, and many times well beyond that. I like to read up on some of the speakers. 

To get an idea of what type of leadership Haynes brought to his church in Dallas, the fact that he got there in 1983 when there were only around 100 members, and today they have 12,000 members, says it all for me. When I used to work in the church world, we knew which clergy “walked the walk” and which seemed to go through the motions. Engagement with the community beyond the walls of a church means one thing to me, and that’s a church leader who does more than just read the Gospel, they put it into practice, and it becomes a part of them. 

I learned about one program initiated by Haynes’ insight that really stood out for me: THR!VE. It’s a mentoring intern project that began with 100 Black young men ages 16 to 19 who are connected with local businesses and the church, and they’re paid while being mentored and working in the community. It’s been so successful that it’s expanded, and now also employs young women. We’ve had young interns at The MV Times ever since I’ve been employed here, nearly a decade now. I still love being around them and watching their enthusiasm and willingness to learn and try new things. Inevitably, come the end of summer, I hate seeing them go. They’re an invaluable part of our summer crew, helping us cover many of the seasonal stories that happen around the Island. They bring fresh eyes and an eagerness that it feels like I lost a long time ago. It returns just a little when I see how they light up about July Fourth fireworks, parades, Illumination Night, the beach, the Ag Fair, ice cream, and lobster rolls. 

I’ve been thinking about this community “stuff” a lot lately, and how it can be part of anyone’s faith journey. Every time we buy local, visit a farmstand, go to the high school graduation just to cheer on the graduates, pick up some groceries for a homebound neighbor, offer a ride to the ferry to someone who’s heading off-Island, drop off perishables for a food program, or donate our gently used clothing, we’re sharing and helping others. Pretty basic activities, but important, and when you string them all together, you’ve got an example of living some of the Gospel principles. 

I consider myself very lucky to live on this Island, and enjoy the warm and welcoming sense of community we have here. It takes work to be mindful of how we treat each other, how we hold each other up. In all of this there’s a need to remember to cheer on everyone — people of color, people who don’t live the same way we do, people who don’t look the same as us. These folks are here too, but they don’t always rise to the top. For me, I have to dig deeper and make more of an effort to be inclusive, and I’m learning that more and more the older I get. We have Juneteenth celebrations coming up, and if we don’t recognize it — a federal holiday now — and celebrate it and learn more about it, we’re missing out on an opportunity to be welcoming and more inclusive. What does it feel like to be excluded, even out of omission? I know it would hurt my heart.