chimes.sum2013.web0729 - page 15

By Rachel Howard
T
his January marked the 27th year of
the Martin Luther King Jr. Annual
Pulpit Exchange between Third Bap-
tist Church and the Congregation Emanu-
El of San Francisco. The two congregations
come together each year to celebrate King’s
life and legacy through the interfaith ex-
change. A pastor from Third Baptist partici-
pates in Emanu-El’s Friday Shabbat service,
and a rabbi from Emanu-El helps lead the
Sunday worship service at Third Baptist.
San Francisco Theological Seminary stu-
dent Renard D. Allen Jr., a fourth-generation
preacher, gave the sermon at Emanu-El’s
Shabbat service. Titled “Blueprint for Better
Days,” his sermon was inspired by Jeremiah’s
message to the children of Israel while in ex-
ile in Babylon and by King’s words about in-
tegration. “The prophet Jeremiah…tells [the
children of Israel] not to expect to return to
the old land right away, but to build houses,
plant vineyards, have children, marry; God
says ‘I have a plan for you,’” Allen said. He
drew parallels with King’s message encourag-
ing communities to take ownership of their
land by becoming a part of it.
Allen saw in King’s words what he called
a blueprint for better days. “And the blueprint
essentially is to make good of the American
Dream for ourselves,” he said. “But we must
go beyond building houses…we must seek the
welfare of America as a whole and always trust
God for the unveiling of a blessed and bright
future.”
The Baptist and Jewish congregations are
connected year-round through their work
with Back on Track, a nonprofit that pro-
vides one-on-one tutoring to K-12 students
throughout San Francisco. Since its inception
more than 25 years ago, the organization has
provided tutoring for more than 2,000 stu-
dents, many of whom have continued on to
college and graduate school. Allen serves as
the nonprofit’s executive director in addition
to studying to earn his M.Div.
Allen says King’s “mysterious influence
in absentia” has had a big impact on his
life. At the age of 12, while other children
were learning snippets of King’s “I Have a
Dream” speech, Allen committed the entire
speech to memory. A native of Houston,
Allen left Texas to attend Morehouse Col-
lege in Atlanta, King’s alma mater. When
Allen returned to Morehouse a year after
graduation to hear a friend’s sermon, he met
Amos Brown, senior pastor of Third Bap-
tist Church in San Francisco. As a result of
this chance meeting, Brown invited Allen
to come to San Francisco to work under his
direction at Third Baptist.
The opportunity to work with Brown
while gaining field experience and continu-
ing his education is what ultimately drew
Allen to SFTS. He has become adept at
dividing his time between student life and
serving as an executive director and is grate-
ful for the chance to balance so many differ-
ent activities. As Allen sees it, “When you’re
serving in an underserved community, you
have to sometimes balance many things, so
[having this many activities in my life] has
been good practice.” He looks forward to
continuing his work with Brown and Back
on Track after he graduates.
9
Rachel Howard is an SFTS communications associate.
Martin Luther King Jr.
annual pulpit exchange
“We must seek
the welfare of
America as a
whole and
always trust
God for the
unveiling of
a blessed and
bright future.”
— Renard D.
Allen Jr.
(M.Div. Senior)
SFTS CHIMES | Summer 2013
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