February might be known as Black History Month, Dr. Terriel Byrd said in his chapel speech at Palm Beach Atlantic University this week, but it’s also the month when President’s Day is celebrated. For that reason, “it’s American history month,” he said.
|Dr. Terriel Byrd|
In the message that followed, Dr. Byrd, professor of urban Christian ministry and coordinator of the evening ministry program at PBA, focused on a little-known aspect of black history, drawing a comparison between black historical figure Martin Luther King Jr. and German Lutheran minister Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and between the vastly dissimilar communities of Berlin and Harlem in the 1930s.
Bonhoeffer, a theologian who lost his life for taking a stand against Nazism, became active in the black church in 1930s Harlem, Dr. Byrd explained.
Bonhoeffer’s introduction to African-American church life came through a theology student named Frank Fisher, whom he befriended at New York’s Union Theological Seminary, Dr. Byrd said. Bonhoeffer led Bible studies and preached at one of Harlem’s preeminent black churches at the time, he said.
Scholars have suggested that these experiences among those on the edges of society influenced Bonhoeffer, who later would openly declare that the church must stand up on behalf of the Jews, Dr. Byrd said.
“He already knew what it meant to live on the edge, and he was less fearful of falling off the cliff,” Dr. Byrd said.
Both martyrs for their respective causes, Bonhoeffer and King shared the beliefs set forth in Isaiah 61:1: “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor,” he said.
“It was the work of justice that united Bonhoeffer and King,” Dr. Byrd said.
The Lord anointed them to bring liberation, he said. The message is relevant not only to the oppressed but to the oppressors as well, he said. “We serve a liberating savior.”
Dr. Byrd was invited to speak in chapel as part of Black History Week, which included a gospel choir performance led by the chapel praise team. Black History Week continues through Thursday.