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Black church honors past, points to future (UM News)

by Jim Patterson
Feb. 16, 2022

It’s 45 minutes before Sunday services start at John Wesley United Methodist Church, but already the sounds of a bassist and drummer warming up rumble through the sanctuary.

Angel Haynes strides in, armed with a tambourine adorned with flowing blue scarves. She immediately starts moving to the rhythm, using the tambourine to accent the beat.

She will spend the whole service on her feet, swaying with the music and shouting out the occasional “Amen!” She has been a member of this predominantly Black congregation for four years, and occasionally testifies during worship about her experience visiting and then becoming one of the 400 or so members.

“I once was a visitor,” Haynes said. “But look at me now; God has given me a home. … We’re not visitors here. We’re all family just looking for a home.”

The forerunner of John Wesley United Methodist Church was formed in 1898 in this Nashville working-class neighborhood, which is on the outskirts of the trendy 12 South district. 

“It’s up to Black folk to make sure our history continues to go all year-round,” said the Rev. Daniel M. Hayes, who is in his 10th year as pastor of the church. He had a previous stint at John Wesley United Methodist Church in the 1990s.

“I think the way for Black people to move forward, especially young Black people, is to be inclusive, instead of being just ‘Black is this, Black is that,’” said Hayes, 64. “I think sometimes that holds our kids back. We have to learn to integrate, mingle with everybody.”

At the Feb. 6 service, Janice A. Hayes, the pastor’s wife, talked about the accomplishments of Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler (1831-1895), the first African American woman to become a medical doctor.

“Although she encountered prejudice and hostility as a Black female doctor, she persisted, and soon discovered her life’s mission, treating illness in poor women and children,” Janice Hayes told the 50 or so congregants gathered on a Sunday still affected by the coronavirus.