Pastor B.T. Rice described the end of the impeachment hearing of President Donald J. Trump when introducing his friend Chaplain Barry C. Black, the chaplain of the U.S. Senate, who spoke at the celebration of the 22nd anniversary of Rice’s church, New Horizon Christian Church, on Saturday, February 8.
Black leads prayers for the U.S. Senate and led prayers during the impeachment hearing, which had concluded three days before.
“At the end of the hearing, they were thanking the ranking members,” Pastor Rice said. “They were thanking the ushers, the pages, the secretaries, the administrators. But they failed to thank the chaplain – the one who brought solace to the place, the one who brought the holy ghost.”
Chaplain Black did not need to be brought up to the sanctuary. He had been seated in the sanctuary with Pastor Rice and a cohort of clergy throughout the service. He had been rising and rejoicing and singing throughout scripture readings, gospel selections led by the pastor’s brother, a small girl reciting a Langston Hughes poem from memory, and three youth praise dancing.
The chaplain, who has known the pastor since high school, is very familiar with service at New Horizon. In 22 years, he has missed one anniversary.
“I thought, by way of introduction, I would ask you to stand and say, ‘Thank you, Chaplain Black, for speaking the word that God still lives amongst us fools,” Pastor Rice continued. “Stand and say, ‘Thank you, Barry Black, bishop of the U.S. Senate, who lifts up the name of Jesus.”
After the congregation – a full house of members and guests – rose and thanked the chaplain along with the pastor, Chaplain Black held the room in thrall for an hour of testimony. He started speaking in sing-songy rhymes that recounted the morning service up until that moment in playful, affectionate terms. He ended an hour later by edging his speech into a guttural delivery of gospel that drew in Minister of Music Kyle Kelly on organ.
In that hour of testimony, Chaplain Black would do many things.
Without naming a single person involved in the impeachment, he indicted the process that he had just finished praying over. He narrated his lifelong friendship with Pastor Rice. He said that in heaven his bald head would be restored to a glorious afro. He said Jesus’ hair “was like wool and looked like an afro.” He quoted B.B. King. He confessed to sin. He testified to his struggle. He described his suffering over the Kansas City Chiefs’ poor performance for the first three quarters of Super Bowl LIV. He interpreted scripture with such profundity that he had the other clergy in the sanctuary literally leaning forward. He delivered not one but three messages that he said the holy ghost had prepared for him to share.
But, first, he wanted to reassure his old friend that his heartfelt thanks had been appreciated but not necessary, even though the Senate majority leader who led the acquittal of the accused president had overlooked him in giving thanks.
“B.T. is my buddy, so he gets upset if somebody doesn’t thank me for something like that,” Chaplain Black said.
“But Romans 8:11 says the power that raised Jesus from the dead lives inside of me. See, I got resurrection power inside of me. And I always get thanked. I was sitting in the chamber when they were doing this,” thanking everyone but him, “and the holy ghost said, ‘I’m proud of you, boy.’ I got my thanks.”
He embedded this spiritual lesson in a larger message about learning how to accept rejection. The frame tale for that message was being a boy knocking on doors selling subscriptions to Christian publications to earn money for his Christian studies. He persevered through 25 doors of rejection before talking his way into a home where a compassionate woman called all of her friends and recruited them as his donors.
Also embedded here, if you listened closely – and this was an intensely attentive audience – was his spiritual analysis of the impeachment hearing.
“The deceitfulness of witches will choke you if you let it choke you,” Chaplain Black said. “Just keep on planting. Don’t become weary. Stay in the road we trod. But don’t become weary. You’re going to reap if you fade not.”
He had not mentioned the names of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell or President Trump. He had mentioned no political party. He had said nothing partisan. But in shrugging off being overlooked by the Senate majority leader, he had preached against letting the deceitfulness of witches choke you while you are doing good work.
In this election season, in a service conducted between the first two presidential primary elections, those of Iowa and New Hampshire, he also gave no endorsement. But he did thank God for an endorsement.
“We thank You,” Chaplain Black addressed God, at the end of his sermon, after he had called sinners to join him before the altar, where they were holding hands and singing gospel, “for your endorsement of the efficacy of the ministry of New Horizon.”