From liberated to liberators
‘March forward in God’s name,’ Rev. A. Lincoln James Jr. proclaims on Emancipation Day
Jeremy M. Lazarus | 1/4/2024, 6 p.m.
“March forward,” the Rev. A. Lincoln James Jr. told about 125 people at the New Year’s Day program celebrating the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation, the great Civil War document that took the first big step toward abolishing slavery in this country.
Rev. James said there are those who want to “go back to the good old days. But I have a question: Where and when were the good old days,” particularly for members of the Black community whose forebears came through slavery and harsh segregation. And he said there are those who are so comfortable they want to keep things the way they are, even though change is a constant.
“Don’t be the kind who wants to go back,” said Rev. James, who has pastored Trinity Baptist Church for 43 years. “Don’t try to stand still, but march forward in God’s name, and if you march forward, God will make a way somehow.”
Rev. James, who delivered the keynote address at the program hosted by Sharon Baptist Church at its Henrico County sanctuary, used verses from the Second Book of Kings to make his point.
The verses tell the story of four starving lepers who marched toward the Syrian Army that was besieging the capital of Israel and with God’s help, sent the enemy fleeing in panic in the belief a major army was going to attack them.
His speech was a highlight of the yearly event that is sponsored by the Baptist Ministers’ Conference of Richmond and Vicinity. The program also included vibrant musical selections of a 48-voice choir drawn from area churches.
But the audience, primarily composed of elderly people, was far smaller than in the past.
Despite the name on the program, the service included virtually no mention of President Lincoln’s famous 1863 proclamation freeing slaves in the rebel South and did not include a reading of the document.
Just as significant was the dearth of elected officials. Once a required stop for local and state office-holders, the 84th annual program that is a fundraiser for local NAACP branches appeared to draw only one, Henrico Delegate Delores L. McQuinn, who also is a minister.