VALLEY PULPIT: An author and preacher who deserves to be better known

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A friend of mine attended a conference in Louisville, Kentucky, and I received the T-shirt. In fact, there was no folder, but he brought me an excellent little book called Meditations on Preaching by an author who deserves to be better known.

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Francis James Grimke (1850-1937) was a Presbyterian minister who served a major church in his nation’s capital for almost 40 years. He was highly regarded as one of the leading African-American pastors of his time.

Grimke was born into slavery in South Carolina, his father, Henry Grimke, a white plantation owner, and his mother, Nancy Weston, a mixed-race slave. The father left instructions in his will that upon his death his children from Nancy would be released and “treated as members of the family”. However, the eldest Grimke’s heir, Montague, a half-brother of Francis, claimed Nancy’s sons as his “servants” in 1860, so they became slaves again! Francis managed to escape and became a valet to a Confederate officer for a time during the Civil War. After many hardships, partly because his father had failed to support him financially, Francis received an education in institutions set up for free blacks and graduated from Lincoln University. He attended Princeton Theological Seminary, graduated in 1878, and was ordained to the Christian ministry.

According to Wikipedia, “In December 1878, Grimke married Charlotte Forten, an abolitionist, teacher, and columnist. Charlotte was the granddaughter of James Forten, a prominent member of Philadelphia’s free black elite. Among her acquaintances were many members of the movement national abolitionist, including William Lloyd Garrison, Sarah Parker Remond, John Whittier and Wendell Phillips. Charlotte was 41 and Francis was about 13 years her junior when they married. In 1880 they had a daughter, Theodora Cornelia, who died very young.

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Francis Grimke ministered to the congregation of the 15th Street Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C. until 1885, when he accepted a calling in Jacksonville, Florida. However, in 1889 he returned to his old church in Washington and preached there until his retirement in 1928. This church housed, as he put it, “the most intellectual and cultured element” of the African-American population. American from DC. a church that expected a high standard of well-prepared and well-delivered preaching. Grimke worked hard to achieve excellence in his ministry.

In addition to his pastoral duties, Grimke was active in promoting black rights in a segregated Southern town. He was founding treasurer of the American Negro Academy, a position he held from 1897 to 1919. It was a learned society aimed at refuting the false claims of racist scholars and promoting the equality and dignity of African-Americans. Americans. He preached against lynching and wrote books on civil rights. He was an activist as well as a clergyman – foreshadowing the work of leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr. One of Grimke’s observations was, “Racial prejudice cannot be exposed, it must be lived.”

The Little Book on Preaching is a compilation of thoughts on what Grimke considered the greatest privilege on earth: the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ to sinners in need of salvation. It sounds the changes on this theme and stresses the need to properly prepare both mind and heart for the demands of the pulpit. He despises clergy who get lazy or think their job is to entertain their parishioners. A few inspiring thoughts from current magazines and newspapers will not suffice; preaching must be soundly biblical and Christ-centered.

Grimke urges ministers to dedicate themselves to this high calling, but also urges congregations to demand the best and refuse to settle for “shells.”

Above all, he says that human efforts to communicate the Gospel are not enough; all is useless if the Holy Spirit is not present and active, and therefore preachers must pray!

Lola R. McClure