Senate chaplain Barry Black speaks at Christ Church of Oak Brook
Senior Pastor Daniel Meyer joins the Rev. Barry Black as he extends a blessing to the church body Sunday at Christ Church of Oak Brook. | Jon Langham~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: September 24, 2012 1:28AM
OAK BROOK — “I believe that only in America is my story possible.”
The Rev. Barry Black, chaplain of the U.S. Senate, repeated this phrase several times throughout his sermon Sunday morning at Christ Church of Oak Brook.
After growing up poor in Baltimore, Black now holds several advanced degrees, including a doctorate in ministry and a doctor of philosophy degree in psychology. He served in the Navy for 27 years, ending his career there as the U.S. Navy Chief of Chaplains.
In June 2003, Black was elected as the 62nd chaplain to the Senate. He counsels senators and their families, opens the Senate every day in prayer, and runs Bible studies and a prayer breakfast.
In his sermon Sunday at Christ Church, he talked about how he got his start, memorizing Bible verses as a young child because his mother would pay him 5 cents for every verse he could recite.
Black said he and his brother would comb through the Bible looking for the shortest verses they could find, and for many years, memorizing Bible verses was a way to make money to buy a big Snickers bar, or Sugar Babies, another favorite.
“Then, when I was 13, I memorized Proverbs 110, ‘My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not.’” Black said. “That very day, two young men from my neighborhood asked me to ‘help them get back at someone.’ I felt the power of Proverbs 110 reverberating in the corners of my spirit, and on the strength of that verse, I refused to go with them.
“They didn’t just get back at someone, they murdered someone,” he said. “Their sad saga was played out on the evening news and the judicial conclusion was life in prison. One of the gentlemen, in fact the gentleman who asked me to go along said, ‘But, I didn’t do it, the other guy did it.’ But it didn’t make any difference; they both received the penalty of life in prison. This means that had I gone along with them, even if I had stood there quoting scripture, I would have received the same penalty.”
Now, many years, degrees and job titles later, Black’s life includes preaching more than 40 Sundays a year at different churches throughout the country.
“We’ve done a summer sermon series for the last couple of years where we feature guest speakers, and a friend of mine recommended him to me,” said Daniel Meyer, senior pastor at Christ Church of Oak Brook.
“I went ahead and got in touch with his (Black’s) staff right away, and this was his first available date. That was over two years ago.”
Christ Church has also hosted the previous two U.S. Senate chaplains, Richard Halverson and Lloyd Ogilvie.
“Having the chaplains visit has become a bit of a tradition, and the Senate is something that’s close to my heart,” Meyer said. Meyer is the son of Connecticut State Senator Edward Meyer.
Black said he is often asked about the challenges that must face him in counseling politicians, but Black maintains the biggest challenge is making sure he continues to walk the straight and narrow himself.
“Sometimes I think I want to do wrong, but then God shows me the way,” Black said.
His favorite discussion topics include church and state issues, the nature of freedoms, God-given rights and the uniqueness of the human experience.