John Lewis is known for many great things. He is a champion of the civil rights movement who survived beatings to stand up for racial equality. He is a member of Congress, representing Georgia and an advocate for a number of progressive causes.
He is also a preacher.
Lewis will deliver the sermon at the 150th anniversary of the historic Shiloh Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., on Sunday at the end of the Congressional Black Caucus events.
What is not as well known about Lewis is the fact that, in addition to attending Fisk University, he also studied at the American Baptist Theological Seminary in Nashville, Tennessee.
Lewis was never ordained as a minister and rarely delivers sermons in churches. However, his life story is seen by many as having the breadth of experience that would serve as the foundation for compelling sermons.
“From his days as a civil rights activist to his current position as a congressman from Georgia, John Lewis is the unwavering voice of consciousness and conviction to the nation,” said the Rev. Wallace Charles Smith, the senior minister of Shiloh.
“We thank God for his powerful witness and unselfish sacrifice for freedom and justice,” Smith said.
Shiloh itself has been the scene of a good deal of significant historical events. It was founded at the height of the Civil War, in 1863, by former slaves. The church has hosted five American presidents, served as a recital hall for Marian Anderson and was the scene of the funeral services for Carter G. Woodson.
Lewis is one of the so-called “Big Six” leaders in the civil rights movement, having served as the chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. The son of sharecroppers who was born in Alabama, Lewis is now a member of the Democratic leadership team in the House of Representatives.
At the age of 23, he was one of the architects of the March on Washington and was the youngest keynote speaker at the historic gathering. He was honored at the recent 50th anniversary of the march and is the last surviving speaker.
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(Photo: Paul Morigi/Getty Images for Ovation)