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Chapel Recap: Rev. Dr. Calvin O. Butts

Contributing Writer

Published: Monday, February 9, 2009

Updated: Monday, February 9, 2009 10:02

Declaring that "it is always calmest before the storm," the Rev. Dr. Calvin O. Butts, III told the congregation at Sunday's Andrew Rankin Memorial Chapel service to remain on guard.

"The shear tenacity of [our] soul power is what has kept [us]…but [we] have yet to arrive," Butts said as applause filled the sanctuary.

 "What is Africa to me, Copper sun or scarlet sea…strong bronzed men or regal black women from whose loins I sprang when the birds of Eden sand," Butts quoted from Countee Cullen's "Heritage" as he opened his sermon.

The Howard Gospel Choir sang "Manifest" as the hymn of preparation.

Butts was introduced by Dean Bernard Richardson as being "a man dedicated to the work of God."

Butts' message, "Pearls and Swine," was taken from Matthew 7:1-6. The message focused on verse 6 which reads, "Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.                                                                                                                                                   

He told the congregation, "Something that is holy, has been sanctified for the service and worship of God."

"There is nothing more holy than our church," Butts said. "[The Church] has been our rock in a weary land."

Butts continued to speak about the church's position in black culture as parishioners throughout the sanctuary listened intently.

"The church is the carrier of our culture and the bearer of our dreams," Butts said. "There would be no black president without the black church," he declared.

He went on to talk about the damaging effects of "popular culture" on the sanctity of the black church.

"We will be lost if we allow people to infiltrate our churches," Butts said. "We live in a blatant time."

He also said that people will make jokes about things holy.  Popular culture must not be allowed to make a mockery of our church.

Butts preached against following popular culture to please a society that wants to secularize the church.

"You must be careful with how you play with your religion," Butts said. "If there is anything the devil wants to destroy, it's the church. Hold on to the best of your faith and don't get bought out."

Referring to the sermon's passage of scripture, Butts told the audience, "Don't give what is holy to dogs. When you do, they [will] eat it up and turn on you."

He left the congregation with this charge, "Dearly beloved, watch for them dogs, they're out there seeking whom they may devour."

A native New Yorker, Reverend Butts is pastor of the nationally renowned Abyssinian Baptist Church in New York City and president of SUNY College at Old Westbury. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree in philosophy from Morehouse College and  a Master of Divinity degree from the Union Theological Seminary.

Among his many accolades, Dr. Butts has spearheaded boycotts against several New York institutions for their racist policies and led a nationally acclaimed and most effective campaign to eliminate negative billboard advertising in central Harlem, N.Y.

Butts continues to be invited to preach in distinguished pulpits throughout New York City as well as nationally and internationally.

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