WASHINGTON—Rev. Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., pastor emeritus of Trinity United Church of Christ, celebrated his final preaching and retirement at Howard University’s Rankin Chapel. Hundreds awaited the arrival of the fearless social activist, revolutionary leader, historian, and forward-thinking minister from Chicago.
The beloved preacher brought tears to the eyes of many in the audience as he sat proudly, bounded by the limitations of a stroke, and softly whispered: “How should he preach without a voice?”
Globally known for being “unashamedly Black and unapologetically Christian,” a phrase originally created by his predecessor, the Reverend D. Reuben Sheares, Rev. Jeremiah Wright spoke for what seemed like hours, whispering the last 36 years of his life spent teaching the truth of the Gospel.
“I have tried to bring two different worlds together (the academy and the pew) in the context of pastoral ministry in an effort to move an ignored people from hurt to healing and from hate to hope,” said Rev. Wright during his message. “My mission at Trinity has been to bring those worlds together by using the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the life of Christ as a model for what is possible, of what might be, and of what our faith really is—the substance of things hoped for.”
Combining his studies of West African music and Judeo-Christian thought, Rev. Wright has lectured and taught at seminaries and universities in America, published four books of sermons and created over 70 ministries to address the needs of the community. He has strived to enrich the lives and faith of his congregants by moving ministry “from theory to praxis.”
Beginning with 87 members, Rev. Wright’s mission was to build Trinity United Church of Christ on solid ground. He multiplied his many talents and has since co-founded the Center for African American Theological Studies in Chicago (CAATS), co-founded the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Pastors Conference, authored numerous academic journals, educational textbooks, constructed two senior citizen housing complexes, and served as the CEO of a corporation.
Rev. Wright was responsible for 18 graduates of the Samuel DeWitt Proctor School of Theology at Virginia Union University completing their seminary work and 42 congregants earning their seminary degrees and receiving their ordination into the United Church of Christ denomination.
Today, Rev. Wright’s church membership is over 8,000. Rev. Wright’s story can be compared to the Parable of the Talents (Mathew 25:14-30; Luke 19:12-28), “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.”
“I’ve known Rev. Wright since we were both students at Howard University (HU) and in 1982, as a member the HU’s Friends of the Chapel, I brought him to HU then and again today,” said Ms. Bea Pace Smith, HU graduate, formerly from Hartford, Connecticut, currently residing in Adelphi, Md. “He is one of the most thought-provoking and life changing ministers in the world.”
“Every year, my children and I return to HU to honor and represent my deceased husband, former HU Chaplain Rev. Eugene Earl Burrell Sr., who was a good friend of Rev. Jeremiah Wright,” said L. Diane Burrell. “We have always known Rev. Wright’s history and what he stands for, and during the darkest days of his controversy, we never wavered. Today, Dr. Rev. Jeremiah Wright continues to be recognized as a great revolutionary, community leader, educator, and social activist worldwide by young people and adults alike,” she added.
Rev. Wright was accompanied by his wife, Rev. Ramah Reed Wright, for his April 24 message. He is the proud father of four daughters, Jamila Nandi Wright, Janet Marie Moore, Jeri Lynne Wright, and Nikol D. Reed, one son, Nathan W. Reed. The Wrights are surrogate parents to thousands who have passed through their seminary doors.
On May 31, 2008, Dr. Wright concluded his work as senior pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ. Currently, he serves as pastor emeritus and spends his time preaching and teaching seminary.
Howard University recently announced the creation of the Andrew Rankin Memorial Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Wright Jr. Leadership Residence Program for unborn generations to study his legacy, history, tradition, and powerful ministry.
—Brenda D. Muhammad