Preaching history: One square in the quilt

398px-398px-richardsontrinityboston1 Days like this are a reminder that we still need a healthy press.

New media or old media, historic moments demand local observers to chronicle them- and get reactions.

That's what Boston Globe religion writer Michael Paulson did when he mapped a medley of sermon themes from regional clergy--on the brink of what he called "an improbable moment in the American story."

Reading his lede, one gets the sense, as we've seen in stories from around the country, of the remarkable significance of this day for African-Americans of faith--

A steady snow was falling over a quiet Sunday morning and the roads were still only semi-plowed, but when the Rev. Jeffrey L. Brown looked out across the wooden pews yesterday morning, he saw faces he hadn't seen in weeks.

"This is the Sunday before the Tuesday," he said, the significance of the days needing no explanation.

As he stood at the pulpit of a church built in Cambridge 130 years ago by freed slaves, Brown slowly recalled the long journey of slave ships from Africa, the indignities of servitude on plantations, the lynchings, the segregation and the long struggle for civil rights. He told the Union Baptist congregation that just last week, for the first time since he was a boy, he visited the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, wanting for a minute to bask in the aura of the president who signed the Emancipation Proclamation, to recall the stirring oratory of the preacher who had a dream, and to anticipate the inauguration of the first African-American as president.

"Our forebears suffered and died for this moment," said Brown, 47, whose own great-great-grandfather emerged from slavery to become a sharecropper in North Carolina.

Out of the congregation came the cry, "Amen!"

It's also fascinating to watch reporters and editors get more and more creative with the way they use interactive tools to bring readers in, and make them part, of the story --particularly huge stories like this one.

Congratulations to Paulson for making his blog Articles of Faith available as a virtual tapestry for local inauguration-themed prayers and sermons -- complete with links and photos.

You can graze for a few minutes on sermons from more than two dozen interfaith sermons--or you can get lost for hours.

If anyone has seen something similar from other areas of the country, please send in links.

Today, journalists all over the country are watching as observers of this uniquely American experience. Faith stories are a crucial part of this ongoing story --and surely, not only in Massachusetts!

Picture of Trinity Church, Copley Square is from Wikimedia Commons

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