By Derek Joy
In Black History Month; no less.
A religious journey reached a spiritual crescendo when Mount Tabor Missionary Baptist Church in Miami celebrated its 114th anniversary with theme: “By Faith We Have the Victory”.
The essence of worship was captured on a program that incorporated the young, middle aged and elderly.
“At the top,” replied Rev. Dr. George E. McRae, who celebrates his 26th anniversary at Mount Tabor in April, replied, when asked; how does this celebration compare with the others he has presided over.
The program was even more notable for its incorporation of participants and congregants of all ages, from youth to senior citizens.
Among the youth were S’avanna Smith with the welcome and Tyrone N. Harris presenting a moment in Black History with a brief historical sketch of Muhammad Ali, who won a golden gloves championship, an Olympic Gold Medal and multiple world heavy-weight boxing titles?
The Rev. Zachary W. Royal, pastor of St. Mary’s First Missionary Baptist Church in Coconut Grove, delivered the sermon based on 1 Kings, 17:8.
“This text is about “Living at the bottom of the barrel,” said Royal, a native of Wichita, Kan.
“This is about Ahab and his preoccupation with getting plenty. Ahab and his wife, Jezebel, were notorious for the wickedness they did. God put restrictions on him. God told him you have to learn to live with less.
“How do you learn to live at the bottom of the barrel? First, you have to learn to witness. Second, you have to learn to worship. And once you learn to worship that’s when you start working.”
Zachary went a step further in telling a story of poor woman with a rebellious son questioning her for feeding a preacher, who was a stranger to him. When it was all said and done, the son experienced an epiphany.
The son found that it was enough, and very good, too. His mother then explained, in the words of Zachary. “Whatever is on your plate; thank God for it. The blessing was never at the top. It was at the bottom,” said Zachary.
Knowing the history of Mount Tabor brings an easy link to the present day congregation; from its humble beginnings in the Lemon City of Miami during the segregated era, to the 17th Avenue location, on to its present location at 10500 N.W. Seventh Ave.
“Back in the 40’s and 50’s,” said McRae, a native of Palatka, Fla., “living with 13 brothers and sisters you were going to do some living at the bottom of the barrel. And the bottom of the barrel didn’t stop until I left there.”
Added Rev. John Taylor, chairperson of the event: “I didn’t get here early enough to hear the entire message. I had a full responsibility at Mount Zion, where I’m the organist.
“I couldn’t just abandon my responsibilities there. I waited until Rev. Moss got started and I tipped out. I got here early enough to hear a lot of the sermon. What I heard was what I needed.”
McRae, a member of Greater Shiloh in Palatka, where Mt. Tabor’s sister church, Mount Tabor of Palatka, finds an added blessing in the celebration.
“That was my joy because it hooked me up to Mount Tabor in Palatka, said McRae of his appointment as pastor 26 years ago. It was a blessing.
“A lot of people don’t like the work we’ve done. God has blessed us. We’ve gotten people to come here from everywhere, from the streets, crack addicts, drug addicts that we’ve helped recover. By faith we have the victory.”