In a striking combination of text and photography, Messengers is a book of faith, the reflections of ministers, musicians, singers, teachers and preachers: African American messengers of the Word.
Faith takes many forms in the modern world, but the “messengers” featured in this collection are unswerving in their devotion to their beliefs and the need to act on them. Their expressions personal and uplifting, these are the voices of the believers, joyfully shouting their truths for all to hear.
Chapter after chapter introduces these incredible messengers, each with a particular call to God, hearts overflowing with generosity and limitless faith: Reverend Professor Peter J. Gomes, Bishop Carolyn Tyler Guidry, Reverend Doctor Calvin Butts, Candi Staton, Pastor Marvin L. Winans, Bishop Alice Pope, Reverend Altagracia Perez, and many more.
A woman who keeps up with the times, Dr. Arlene Churn began preaching at the age of four and has continued spreading the message for fifty-nine years. Dr. Churn champions the voices of female preachers, noting that even today their ministry of the Word is questioned: “The Word confirms the equality of women in the sight of God.” In the latest phase of her life, Dr. Churn is a grief counselor and life coach, offering comfort “whose source is God Himself.”
Often faith comes slowly but is all the stronger for the many trials that bring a man to the light of his religious beliefs. Such is the case of Pastor Jesse Andrus, who at one time worked as a custodian in a maximum security correctional facility, a job that brought him into close contact with the less fortunate. To preach effectively, the pastor had to come face to face with his own flaws and acknowledge them, learning along the way that “Jesus is about change” and “grace is embracing the love that comes with faith.”
Formerly a backup singer for Ray Charles (a “Raelette”), Dr. Mable John heard a clear message while performing onstage, a voice like no other: “Go home, Mable. I have something for you to do.” She heeded the call, learning Greek along the way to study the original language Bible. Dr. John set up a ministry in South Central Los Angeles, her faith sustained through her ministry and the loss of family, her anthem: “I saturate the house with praise… I stay strong before God so I can do what I have to do.”
For those who enjoyed Crowns: Portraits of Black Women in Church Hats, Messengers is a powerful testament to faith wedded to action in the African American community, beautifully arranged and thoughtfully collected. Each call to preach the Word is highlighted with a quote from the messenger, the text filled with hope, but the most joyful aspect of this book is the quality of the photographs, light shining from the eyes of God’s messengers, singing, smiling and embracing their calling.