Chaplain Raphael G. Warnock Implores the Faithful to Pray with their Feet

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“When the great Jewish cleric, Abraham Joshua Heschel, marched with Dr. King he said he felt like his feet were praying,” said the Rev. Raphael G. Warnock at the White House Easter Prayer breakfast on March 30.

Warnock, senior pastor of the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, spiritual home of Martin Luther King, Jr., will serve as Chautauqua’s chaplain for Week Three.

“This is a prayer breakfast. And I do believe in the power of prayer, but what we need when we leave this place are some praying feet,” he said. “In this moment in our nation, when naked bigotry pushes its agenda in public policy and raises its voice in the public square, unashamed and unabashed, we need some hands and feet, heads and hearts praying and working together. And together, we can rise up and fly.”

Warnock will preach at the Ecumenical Communion Service at 10:45 a.m. Sunday in the Amphitheater. His sermon title is “Knowing When to Give the Benediction.” He will share his faith journey at the 5 p.m. Vespers in the Hall of Philosophy.

At the Easter Prayer Breakfast, Warnock told the congregation to pray with their feet.

“Jesus said he came to preach good news to the poor, to open the eyes of the blind, to set the captives free,” he said. “And so by praying with our feet, I mean in the best of our tradition, I mean that we ought to be engaged, organized, bearing witness to God’s kingdom of love and justice.”

This is Warnock’s fifth visit to Chautauqua. Since his last visit, Warnock proposed to his girlfriend, Ouleye Ndoye, at the end of a Watch Night Service at Ebenezer on Dec. 31. They were married at Ebenezer on Valentine’s Day. He told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “I’ve waited a long time for this moment and I’ve worked hard for a long time. It’s exciting to finally give more attention to my personal life.”

Warnock will also preach Monday through Friday at the 9:15 a.m. morning worship services in the Amphitheater. His sermon titles include “Of Hands and Feet,” “When Prophets and Profits Collide,” “On Recovering Your Edge,” “Faith Through a Rearview Mirror” and “Lessons From A Tree.”

Warnock, who was born to Pentecostal-Holiness ministers, was first licensed and ordained at the Sixth Avenue Baptist Church of Birmingham, Alabama, and then served as assistant pastor of the Abyssinian Baptist Church of New York City. He was the senior pastor at Baltimore’s Douglas Memorial Community Church before going to Ebenezer.

A graduate of Morehouse College, he holds Master of Divinity, Master of Philosophy and Doctor of Philosophy degrees from Union Theological Seminary in New York City. He also graduated from Harvard’s Summer Leadership Institute and worked on AIDS with the National Black Leadership Commission.

Warnock has worked for and been an activist for national causes, world peace and small democracies, for which he spent time in Haiti. He is the author of Georgia’s official curriculum guide for peer programs whose purpose is to reduce the state’s teenage pregnancy rate, “Educating Teens for Positive Peer Intervention.” Warnock also authored a book titled The Divided Mind of the Black Church: Theology, Piety, and Public Witness, which was published in 2013.
The American Academy of Religion member has preached at the International Festival of Homiletics and The Riverside Church of New York. Warnock delivered the closing prayer at the 2013 Inaugural Prayer Service held at the National Cathedral at the request of President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama.


The author Mary Lee Talbot

Mary Lee Talbot writes the recap of the morning worship service. A life-long Chautauquan, she is a Presbyterian minister, author of Chautauqua’s Heart: 100 Years of Beauty and a history of the Chapel of the Good Shepherd. She edited The Streets Where We Live and Shalom Chautauqua. She lives in Chautauqua year-round with her Stabyhoun, Sammi.