It was revival time at the First Baptist Church of Highland Park in Landover, Maryland, and Nancy Clark was down front. More than a thousand people were waving their hands and praising God as an evangelist spoke about the federal shutdown from a spiritual perspective.
“Here is your testimony,” said guest preacher Rev. Frederick D. Haynes, pastor of the Friendship West Baptist Church of Dallas, on Monday evening. “I am living my blessed life… and when you’re living your blessed life, you ain’t got time to go back and forth… When the government shuts down, God still shows up, and when God shows up, he is still giving out blessings.”
In the same way that Martin Luther King Jr. preached a prophetic word to lead a network of pastors to fight racism and oppression during the civil rights movement, Haynes is part of a new generation of pastors who barnstorm across the country to preach and give hope to those who are oppressed for various reasons.
Clark was glad to be in the pews. “I needed this,” she said after the service was over. Clark normally rushes home to Upper Marlboro to get ready for her next day at the US Department of Homeland Security, but on Monday night, time was not a concern because Clark is a furloughed federal worker.
“It is because of God’s grace and knowing that he is in control that I’m able to keep my peace,” says Clark, 58. She is staying positive and patient even though she and other federal workers will not get their regularly scheduled paychecks this week. “I keeping watching TV for the news. We are supposed to get paid on Friday.”
Thousands of federal workers will not get any pay this Friday, and thousands of contractors don’t know when they will see their checks as a result of the federal shutdown.
The Rev. Henry P. Davis, pastor of First Baptist of Highland Park, estimates that a fourth of his 3,500 members work for Uncle Sam, and as result he has had to do much more than offer prayers and encouragement in recent weeks.
“This shutdown is affecting our church in multiple ways,” Davis says. “We created a special fund to assist our members and we are not charging tuition to furloughed federal workers whose children attend our school, Highland Park Christian Academy, which is from Pre-K to the 8th grade.”
Prince George’s County is filled with mega churches whose pews and choir lofts have many federal workers who shuttle between church and work every week.
First Baptist Church of Glenarden, City of Praise Ministries, and Ebenezer African Methodist Episcopal Church in Fort Washington are all mega congregations that have been offering extra prayers to the thousand affected workers in their collective congregations. Last Friday, Bishop T. D. Jakes preached to thousands during the annual New Year’s Revival at the First Baptist Church of Glenarden.
On Sunday, Faith Tabernacle of Prayer in Southeast D.C. offered special prayers during the communion. The late Bishop Judy Talbert founded the church, which was the home church of former D.C. Police Chief Charles Ramsey and many other federal workers and law enforcement officers.
Pastor Davis says that in addition to offering financial assistance and prayers, he has to offer individual counseling to members who are forced to make tough decisions. “Some of our members are managers in the government who have to create the furlough list, and it has been hard,” he says.
Clark sings in the Women’s Choir at First Baptist of Highland Park, and she works with the youth, but now she is the one standing in need of prayer and ministry.
“Pastor Davis and my church Family have shown me great support,” Clark says. “They are continually praying for me, providing financial support, and It has been very helpful.”
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