Sunday, January 11, 2009

Pastor Otis J. Moss Retires

Otis J. Moss, Jr., senior pastor of the Olivet Institutional Baptist Church in Cleveland, Ohio, retired at the end of 2008. Moss, who served Olivet as pastor since 1975, has been a pastor for 54 years.

The 73 year old religious and civil rights leader, is one of the most venerated clergymen in the African-American church and, led one of the great servant churches in our nation. O.M. Hoover, Moss' predecessor, was also a tireless preacher, civic leader and progressive pastor. I remember listening to Dr. Hoover's sermons, but also of sermons that Martin Luther King, Jr. preached at Olivet during the Civil Rights Era.

Moss' career led from Georgia, where he co-pastored Ebeneezer Baptist Church in Atlanta with Martin Luther King, Sr., prior to assuming the pastorate at Olivet.




I mention Dr. Moss' retirement for two reasons: first, his was yet another prophetic voice and ministry, without whom black circumstances in this country would be much worse. As a pastor he has been an example and an inspiration throughout the U.S. for young preachers and pastors, laying the groundwork for ministries that we see in many of the 'mega-churches' we see today.

At his retirement party, congratulations poured in from across the nations, and recognition of his service wasn't just limited to the church world. "[Former Congressman Louis] Stokes read a congratulatory letter from President-elect Barack Obama: "You've left an indelible mark on all that you've touched," Obama wrote. "The Lord has used you mightily.""We are all here today, tonight, to say thank you for your generosity," said [Oprah] Winfrey, who considers Moss her pastor. "It means the world to us", reported the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Secondly, his name might sound familiar to some of you. That's because his son, Otis Moss III, succeeded Jeremiah Wright at Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago. It is exciting to see this young man continue this legacy of service and ministry.

Otis Moss' 'retirement', won't mean a period of inactivity. Like so many of his generation, as they leave that phase of ministry, they become even more valuable assets to churches and preachers throughout the country, reminding them of the authentic nature of our faith and subsequently our responsibility to witness with our words and works. Those of us who have been blessed by his profound intellect; his tremendous insight into the application of scripture to the work of making our country, our culture and our world a more just place to live; his graceful bearing and rich voice, will hopefully hear much, much more from him. I know he's been an incredible inspiration to me when I've had the opportunity to be in his presence.

Otis Moss' leaving the pastoral ministry, will join a number of others who become examples of the old axiom, 'The reward for work well done, is more work to do."

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