Wednesday, May 18 2022

guest preacher

Former Ambassador Suzan Johnson Cook will be the guest preacher at Theressa Hoover Memorial United Methodist Church. The recorded service can be viewed from 10:30 a.m. Sunday at facebook.com/hooverchurch.

Suzan Johnson Cook, former United States Goodwill Ambassador for International Religious Freedom, will deliver the Sunday morning sermon for the Theressa Hoover Memorial United Methodist Church in Little Rock.

The recorded, virtual-only worship service will be available for viewing on the church’s YouTube and Facebook pages.

Johnson Cook, who was appointed to the post by former President Barack Obama, had planned to preach in person.

The omicron variant derailed things.

The congregation decided to cancel in-person worship gatherings as the number of covid-19 infections in Arkansas rose.

In an email, Johnson Cook said she still plans to travel to Arkansas this weekend to speak with members of Delta Sigma Theta.

Church pastor Deborah Bell said Johnson Cook will have a standing invitation to return once the pandemic passes.

“I just hate that she can’t be here [for a traditional worship service]“Belle said.

Johnson Cook’s invitation to speak came from Etta Carter, vice president of the congregation’s United Methodist Women’s Group.

“She’s a friend of mine and we were talking and she said, ‘I’m coming to Arkansas in January. I said ‘…I hope you can speak in my church.’ I just threw it away. And she said, “I’d love to,” Carter said.

Johnson Cook has previously spoken at Philander Smith College; Carter sits on its board of directors. They had also gotten to know each other at a national conference.

While the ambassador’s resume is long and her list of accomplishments long, Carter also emphasizes Johnson Cook’s personal qualities.

“She has such a warm, sincere, genuine Christian spirit. You’ll never forget that,” Carter said.

Early in his ministry, Johnson Cook founded the Bronx Christian Fellowship. She was also a member of the White House and was later appointed by then-President Bill Clinton to serve on the advisory board for the President’s Race Initiative.

In addition to her religious work and government service, Johnson Cook is an author, counselor and speaker who appears occasionally on cable news channels.

The ambassador recorded her sermon and it was transmitted to the church’s technology experts.

“The team weaves its magic,” Carter said.

Team member Ruth Jones explains that a Sunday service typically lasts 30 to 40 minutes, once the elements are edited and put together.

“We try to keep it pretty short. We recognize the attention span for videos,” she said.

Sunday service is special, she said.

“We’re so grateful to have the opportunity to have this woman speak to us. … It’s an honor. It’s a privilege, and we don’t take it lightly.”

The scriptural text for the sermon comes from the 14th chapter of Exodus, Bell said.

This is the passage where God tells Moses to raise his staff and stretch out his hand over the Red Sea, promising to “divide the water so that the Israelites may cross the sea dry.”

Bell, who watched Johnson Cook’s sermon, says it is a “powerful” call for women to pursue the dreams God has placed in their hearts, using the resources available to them.

“She did a great job,” Bell said. The message, she says, is “Don’t be afraid. Be strong. Be brave. Don’t be discouraged because God is always with us.”

“There are so many churchless, confused, lost and broken women who need to meet someone like Reverend Johnson Cook,” Bell said.

The former Obama administration official started at the bottom “and now she’s an ambassador,” Bell added.

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