By Deborah Bailey,
Special to the AFRO

As Rev. Raphael Warnock welcomed President Joe Biden to his pulpit on Jan. 15 – the pulpit of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta – the historic moment was not lost on him. 

After all, it was Jan. 15, the actual birth date of the Rev. Dr. Martin L. King Jr., who put the pulpit of Ebenezer Baptist Church on display for the world during the U.S. Civil Rights Movement when he was pastor. 

King was, perhaps, the leading voice of the Civil Rights Movement, challenging America to grant basic rights to Black Americans at a time when segregation and second-class citizenship was baked into the structure of American institutions. 

Biden told the congregation that America again stands at a crossroads – this time, in terms of the basic governing structure of the nation.  

“I stand here at a critical juncture for the U.S. and the world,” Biden began in his address. “We’re at what we call an inflection point. What will happen in the next six or eight ears will determine what the world looks like in the next 30 or 40 years.” 

He continued, “This is the time of choosing: Are we a people who will choose Democracy or autocracy?” 

The President doubled down on a theme he articulated in an early November 2022 speech warning about the fragility of America’s democratic institutions. 

“We have to choose a community over chaos,” Biden said, referencing Dr. King’s classic text, “Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?”

“I believe Dr. King’s life and legacy show us how we should pay attention,” Biden added, before continuing to applause, “The power to redeem America lies where it has always laid with we the people.”

President Joe Biden, left, and the Rev. Raphael Warnock, pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta and the first Black U.S. senator from Georgia, share a light moment during services on Jan. 15. (Courtesy Photo)

For Warnock, it was Biden’s life of service and capacity to transform his personal suffering that led him to invite the president to Sunday morning service and to serve as preacher of the hour. 

“I am inspired by his lifelong commitment to service,” Warnock said, listing Biden’s long-standing service as a U.S. senator from Delaware, where he was first elected at the age of 29 in 1972. 

“We are also inspired by the way in which he has transformed pain into power,” Warnock said as many in the congregation nodded their heads in agreement. 

Biden’s first wife died in an automobile accident in 1972, weeks after he was elected to his first term in the U.S. Senate.  More recently, Biden’s oldest son, Hunter Biden, died of brain cancer in 2015. 

Neither Biden nor Warnock made direct reference to headline news about classified papers being found at Biden’s Wilmington, Delaware garage or residence. However, near the conclusion of the service as the minister stood next to Biden, Warnock thanked Biden and told the congregation, “I want you to continue to pray for the president. It’s not an easy job.”  

Biden is the first sitting U.S. president to deliver the morning message from Ebenezer’s pulpit. Warnock, who just won re-election to the United State Senate for a full six-year term in a run-off vote in early December, is the first Black person elected to the U.S. Senate from Georgia.

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