As Pastor William T Young IV climbed to the summit of his Sunday sermon, he cited the genius of his congregation’s ancestors, the “genius of their Blackness” to see that if Jesus can rise again, so can they.

He said their sons and daughters can rise. And “somewhere down in 2020, there’s a young Black boy over in Scotland” who can rise too.

From his Clydebank home, Pastor Young has been ministering to his new flock in Washington DC since April 1, through the turmoil and pain of the coronavirus pandemic, the ongoing murder of Black lives and another chorus singing “no more” – Black Lives Matter.

Since police killed George Floyd on May 25, there have been daily marches and calls for justice, including in the US capital and outside the White House, home to what the congregation calls “the Resident”.

Pastor Young’s plans and desire to be there in person were put on hold by the global lockdown.

After almost a decade at Morison Memorial Church, in Clydebank, and Drumchapel’s Essenside United Reformed Church, he and all congregations are getting used to sharing faith through technology.

Almost 100 people Zoomed together on Sunday. It even included a recording of a liturgical dance in a front hall in the US capital, set to Pastor Young singing.

It’s not quite the same.

“It’s been challenging,” Pastor Young told the Post.

“You want to be there and experience it and to have what we call in the church a prophetic role - meeting the needs of the people and letting them know that the church supports both the reason for their protesting and the desired outcomes: better policing and, all around, a re-revisiting of our role in history, and our place in history.

“And I think it’s an incredible thing that it’s taken this millennial generation to get the world to see that the sins of the father, as it were, are still visited upon us, even now.

“And it’s up to us not to hide these things under a rug and have the courage, the guts, to talk about them and make change a priority.

“There’s so much that really does need to change.”

Sunday’s sermon coincided with Father’s Day and fell two days after Juneteenth, marking the date the last US state was told all slaves were free.

But it was not the date all slaves were freed. Mississippi didn’t file the correct documents to ratify the 13th Amendment to abolish slavery until 2013.

Looking to the past, to ancestors, Sunday’s sermon marked both fathers lost – including a video of Rayshard Brooks, speaking months before police killed him outside a Wendy’s in Atlanta – and fathers “freed”, with a reading of the Emancipation Proclamation of 1862.

Pastor Young said he wanted to look to the past too, to those who had nothing and could only look to the future and to building something out of nothing.

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His own experience, from a young age, was being taught that to succeed as a Black man in America, he would have to work 10 times harder to attain an equal success to white Americans.

Growing up in Cincinnati, Ohio, Pastor Young said he remembered numerous conversations with his father about being a Black man in America and his experiences returning as a veteran of the Vietnam War.

“He was the victim of brutality by the police,” he said. “He told me some occurrences and in many ways he tried to tell me the realities.

“And at the same time he was one of those who was crazy enough to believe ... make something of yourself, be the best that I can be.

“And he also taught me the lesson that so many young Black people learn: that in America a Black person has to work 10 times harder. And I would say that is an issue in the UK as well, that the difficulties of being a person of colour and making it in this society.”

Clydebank Post:

One of the values of the Black church, said Pastor Young, is the education of their history where that taught in school erases them from consciousness. The church is a “stronghold” and something he missed from his time in Scotland.

As he told his American congregation on Sunday: “You can never talk about the history and culture of the United States without speaking about the people who built it.

“The greatest weapon against oppression is a people’s awareness of themselves.”

And the people have their eyes wide to the violent reality, one that is centuries old and has continued despite a global pandemic that changed almost everything else.

“It’s not just about one person who has died,” Pastor Young told the Post, “it’s about the many – and the many more who keep dying.

“You saw what happened in Atlanta [to Rayshard Brooks]. It’s something of a sickness in the United States and it’s an awakening now, what’s happening. We’re all connected to history.

“And even Scotland understands the need for that. Folks in Scotland have been protesting for years about making the history curriculum more inclusive of Scotland’s history and not just the romantic parts of it, but the brutal parts of it. And of course part of that brutal history of Scotland is the history of slavery. And so it’s all connected.

“And I believe that the key to making all of those sectors of life healthy and the key to better policies and a better understanding of ourselves, begins with the stories that we tell each other.”

It could be another two months at least until Pastor Young can physically join his new congregation. But they have digitally managed to share their stories and their experiences of the pandemic and Black Lives Matter.

“That’s a crucial part of the Black church tradition in America,” he said, “The story of our stories and intermingling that with the stories of the Bible, reminding us that the Jesus of the Bible is indeed on our side, contrary to what the world thinks about us.

“It’s a source of strength; it’s a source of confidence to do that.”

Though he sits by himself in his Clydebank home speaking to his webcam each Sunday, Pastor Young knows he is not alone, and neither are the members of his congregation.

“The world sees what is going on in America,” he said.

“I saw photographs of young men in Syria who are graffitiing their ruins ‘BLM’ and etchings of George Floyd. So there is support from people.

“And people in Palestine – I was just there in September – recall the knees on their necks over the last almost 80 years, so we’re definitely not alone.

“As Martin Luther King said, ‘We are tied together in a single garment of destiny’.

“So we can’t stop what we’re doing. We can’t slow down. We can’t hide it under the rug, can’t go to sleep.

“There is so much promise on the horizon now in terms of fighting, not only racial injustice, but also providing better equality for everybody, not just Black people.

“This movement, Black Lives Matter, is about Black bodies and the recognition of Black bodies first and foremost.

“But when Black bodies matter, the lives of the poor over here in Drumchapel and Clydebank are going to start mattering more.

“I actually believe that. And elsewhere in the world there will be a thirst for justice again and a thirst for hope after this.”