36412444_10214397248337885_9150170808990040064_oThis is the day that the Lord has made! Let us rejoice and be glad in it! Israel AME Church lifted me up and put a smile on my face and in my heart.   Today the mass choir was singing, and they were praising God with all that was within them. My good friend, Linda Mallory-Mitchell, directed the choir with such great enthusiasm. The music team, which included that old Hammond B3 organ, was making that heavenly, gospel sound. “The Doxology” was presented in a happy, upbeat way. I noticed that there were large, colorful quilts hanging on the side walls of the sanctuary. The squares were each sewn by different people, with rich colors and unique patterns, all sown together in UNITY. As I was observing these, the classic hymn, “Holy, Holy, Holy”, rang through the air. As I journey to a variety of congregations throughout the region, those old hymns are a common thread in the tapestry of God’s people.

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This church welcomed the visitors by asking each of us to stand and introduce ourselves. It is always such a blessing to be able to share with the congregation about my Church Journeys, especially when there is such a genuine interest. Following this, we had a time of meeting and greeting, and we were bombarded with hugs. One lady embraced me tightly while she thanked the Lord for her new sister. Giving was a time of praise and rejoicing as well! During the offering, the choir members paraded down the center aisle singing the lively gospel song “Every Praise is to Our God”.   There was such a tremendous sense of freedom here. Then we all joined hands as Rev. Craig Thomas Robinson lead us in prayer. I held the hand of a man sitting in the pew in front of me. I did not know him, but I sensed God connecting us in the spirit as we prayed. As I looked at our grasped hands, the contrast was symbolic of what God is doing in our region and in the Body of Christ as a whole. Denominational and cultural walls are being torn down. The prayer of Jesus immediately came to mind “… that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.” John 17:21 (NKJ)

Rev. Craig spoke today about making ROOM in our lives for Christ. In Mark 5:40 the crowd laughed at Jesus when He said that the 12-year old girl who had died was only sleeping.   It says that Jesus “put them all outside” before working a miracle and raising that young child from the dead. These were professional minstrels who were actually employed to mourn for the dead. Jesus put them out because they were “committed to death”. We too need to remove people from our inner circle who are “committed to death”. We are who we hang around with, and we cannot be crowded by people who gossip and are constantly negative. God can work miracles if we let go and let God have His way. Jesus had to make room for the power of God to fill that place and work a miracle.   We need to declutter our lives of the people and things that prevent God from moving. God is calling us to MAKE ROOM for Him! He will come in and bless us and heal us. Our lives are crowded with people. We live surrounded by so many things and we are always accumulating more stuff. Our minds are crowded with thoughts and our body with feelings. We need to declutter and “PUT OUTSIDE” those people and things that are preventing God from moving in our lives. Just then, a young boy, around 10 years old, made his way to the altar and accepted the Lord into his heart. This boy MADE ROOM for Christ and it was such a pure-hearted example to all who were present. Matthew 18:4 (NKJ) “Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

What a joy it was to take communion with our new family. They were clothed in white, and as we took the elements, songs of praise began to rise. “There’s Power in the Blood” was followed by the “Our Father” prayer. The sacrament of communion, the old hymns and the “Our Father” … standard threads that weave all of God’s children together.
35089251_10117035379719374_2874088107555160064_nRich in history, Israel AME Church was founded in 1828 and is the oldest African American Church in Albany.  Israel AME has enabled many people to achieve “new beginnings” by providing safe transport as a part of the Underground Railroad. Refuge and speaking platforms were given to freedom fighters like Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglas. Israel AME is also the site where the local chapter of the NAACP started. This church has been MAKING ROOM for people and for Christ for nearly 200 years. Their current building was erected in 1854 and they continue to serve God and others throughout Albany’s inner-city. Sunday services are at 10 am with church school preceding at 9 am. Holy Communion is served the first Sunday of the month and Pastor’s Bible study is held on Wednesday evenings at 6 pm. They also have a soup kitchen lunch every Wednesday at noon.

Come for a visit! The folks at Israel AME Church will make ROOM for you!

Church Website – www.israelame.com

By Donna Hansen Munafo
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