In a season of difficulty for the city of Detroit, the shining rays of hope may first spring from the pulpit.  That’s very much the domain of the Reverend Dr. Charles G. Adams, pastor of the historic Hartford Memorial Baptist Church.

Founded in 1917, Hartford Baptist Church was built on the grounds of the first established black church in Detroit; in 1836, according to Reverend Adams, African Americans formed the Second Baptist Church because of the unwillingness of whites to accept them into the First Baptist Church.  As a result, from the outset, these grounds were consecrated with a certain spirit of defiance as well as piety.
“Throughout our history,” the Reverend Adams pointed out in a recent interview, “we’ve been a place where African Americans could stand up and fight for their rights.  It began with the slaves; this was often the first stop when blacks came up from the South and needed to be assimilated…”

“You see,” Adams continued, “worship and praise are very important, but when the worship and praise is finished, folks still need to earn a living.  So, assimilation and education become paramount to a successful struggle toward justice.”

Reverend Adams speaks with enthusiasm about the earnest labors of his predecessors on the Hartford altar, especially Reverend Charles A. Hill, who opened the church to such nonconformists as W.E.B. Dubois and Paul Robeson.  “These were men who stood against any form of fascism and fought for equal treatment for all men in all walks of life.   Hartford became the place where factory workers came to organize, where they could become empowered in ways that they simply couldn’t have where they’d come from… the Jim Crow South.”

Having lived through some of the toughest times for African American Detroit,  it is utterly refreshing to feel the power of joy and hope that courses through virtually every sermon offered by Dr. Adams, but even more so when he speaks extemporaneously.  During the course of our interview he summed the contributions that African Americans have made to the city of Detroit with the following eloquent statement:
“The black community has put soul and warmth into a city which would otherwise be quite a cold and difficult place to live.”

Here, here, in times which are as triumphant as they are challenging, the election of Barak Obama is a barometer of hope not only for the black community, but for everyone casting an eye for a better future.