St. Faith Anglican Church in Edmonton hosted an ecumenical church service on the opening weekend of Black History Month festivities in Edmonton. Presider the Rev. Adenike Yesufu, deacon at St. Faith’s, welcomed members of the National Black Coalition of Canada (NBCC) – Edmonton Chapter and a dozen church communities in Edmonton, Calgary and Camrose. A joyful celebration of worship and praise, the service continued the running theme of diversity and unity, fellowship and community, individual and collective peace and, this year, friendship.
Joanne James brought greetings of love and friendship from NBCC Vice-President Joy Thomas, who acknowledged Bishop Jane Alexander and the Edmonton diocese for hosting the service for a fourth straight year.
“We are people from many walks of life, with different cultures and practices, yet we are connected as one in Christ,” Thomas said, extending a warm invitation to the annual Black History Month Gospel Concert on February 24, 2018 at the Jubilee Auditorium.
Cecile Latty-Hackett, an ordained travelling evangelist, gave the homily. Raised in the hills of Clarendon in Jamaica, she began participating in campus ministry at the age of 16, which became the catalyst for an evangelism ministry spanning 35 years in the Caribbean, Canada and the US.
Preaching on the Gospel of John 15:9-17 (read by Eze Chukwuemeka Obiajunwa, a member of the Good Shepherd Catholic Parish in Edmonton), Latty-Hackett described the social void created by social media.
“Jesus says to His disciples ‘I will not call you servant… I’ll call you friend. You have not chosen me but I have chosen you. I have called you by name. You are mine. My friends I command you: Love one another and seek the best from each other.’”
“We live in a culture of isolation, our future determined by the stroke of a finger, not by relationships, not by conversations, but by likes and dislikes,” said Latty-Hackett who is married to Bishop Joseph Hackett, Senior Pastor of the Berean Church of God in Calgary.
“You are not defined by how many likes you have. You are not defined but what you do, or what you say, or how you look. You are defined by the one who loves you unconditionally and everlastingly. We need more than Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. We need people. We need faith, but we also need friends. Do not fool yourselves – you need people. In this era of isolation, we need human connection. Britain, a nation of more than 66 million people, just appointed a minister of loneliness. Oh the joy of the loving hand, the depth of the body that produces warmth. When you let Jesus be your friend then you can be a friend. Before you can be a friend, you must first fill your void. If you’re empty you have nothing to give. You are not a mistake you are loved. So much that Christ would die for you.”
Latty-Hackett urged her friends and fellow Christians to remain focused on their purpose as defined by God. “You are the answer to someone’s prayers. Be a friend,” she said.
Alberta has a rich Black history, originating with the African American pioneer farming families of Amber Valley and Keystone (later named Breton). The Province officially recognized Black History Month in 2017.