During our worship on Sunday, April 7, Dr. David Laubach of the American Baptist Home Mission Societies will be with us to present me with the American Baptist Religious Freedom Award. Because LABC has long been committed to interpreting, preserving and extending religious liberty for all this is an award we all share in. As part of the award presentation Robert Wilkins will read this letter from Dr. J. Alfred Smith Senior, Pastor Emeritus at Allen Temple Baptist Church. Dr. Smith is an esteemed colleague, a widely respected Baptist leader and my teacher of Pastoral Leadership when I was a student at ABSW.
I thank him for his kind words.
A Tribute To The Rev. Dr. James Hopkins
Recipient Of The American Baptist Religious Freedom Award 2013
by The Rev. Dr. J. Alfred Smith Sr.
Rev. James Hopkins has lived in our midst and in our nation with humility, quiet dignity, consistency of unselfish service, and with loving arms that have embraced the whole of human kind in its’ rich diversity. With all of his native gifts and human attainments, The Rev. Dr. H. James Hopkins could have used his position as pastor of the historic Lakeshore Avenue Baptist Church of Oakland as the place for egocentric expression and self glorification. Instead of being known as a prosperity gospel preacher, or one who lures crowds to Sunday services to see him fascinatingly titillate their emotions with religious entertainment, Pastor Hopkins, with calmness of voice and thoughtfulness of expression preaches sermons of brevity on loving all people irrespective of race, religion, class, or sexual orientation. His deeds match his creed.
Never a person who loves titles, Jim Hopkins follows Jesus who was just content to be called Jesus, and he works for justice just like Amos; who was content to be called Amos. Jim Hopkins is as relaxed walking as a peace maker in an Oakland killing zone as he is in calmly presiding at a meeting of A. B. S. W. seminary trustees. I have seen him remain cool, calm, and collected in community meetings where tempers flared and where people allowed their boneless tongues to cut and crush. I was present at an interfaith gathering at The American Baptist Seminary of The West where Pastor Hopkins spoke to heal old wounds in an Islamic/Baptist dialogue. I was present two years ago at the 122nd Annual Meeting of The Conference of Reformed Rabbis that was held in San Francisco when Pastor Hopkins in a quiet, convincing voice, gave an address on “The Efficacy of Preaching in Post Modern Times.”
Since that historic event, I was present when Pastor James Hopkins introduced Rabbi Andrew Strauss, the new Rabbi of Oakland’s Temple Sinai to the Korean Christian community. This was when the Korean community in particular and the city at large were in the painful state of grief due to the senseless, brutal murders of Korean students; who were killed in their University classrooms. I am happy to be a colleague and a long time friend of Pastor Hopkins and The Lakeshore Avenue Baptist Church. They seek healing where there is hurt.
May I sum up my view of the freedom praxis of The Rev. Dr. James Hopkins; which merits him the American Baptist Religious Freedom Award by quoting Leo Tolstoy and Nicolas Berdyaev. Jim Hopkins’ life for freedom reveals his key for the art of living a beautiful life. In discussing the art of living which should interest each of us, Tolstoy wrote: “The art of living is to transmit from the realm of reason to the realm of feeling the truth that human well-being consists in the uniting of people not around military force, but around love that characterizes the Kingdom of God. Love is the highest aim in life.”1 Berdyaev wrote about the beauty of the art of living. He reminds us of how Jim Hopkins has mastered the beauty of the art of living. Berdyaev wrote; “Beauty is linked with the creative force of life with aspiration toward infinity.”2 This means that the beauty of the Christian life has eternal dimensions that will out last time itself. To God be the glory.
1 Leo Tolstoy, What is Art?, London: Oxford University Press, 1959, p. 288
2 Nicolas Berdyaev, The Divine and The Human, London: Geoffrey Bless, 1949, p. 143