Upon This Rock, by Samuel G. Freedman
The Manhattan Institute, a conservative public-policy organization with a particular focus on issues affecting New York City, has since 1987 sponsored an annual lecture named in honor of the financier Walter Wriston. A black-tie affair attracting leaders from the worlds of politics, business, academia, and the arts, the Wriston Lecture has become a noteworthy event in the city’s cultural life. In recent years the Institute has offered its podium to the likes of Tom Wolfe, Milton Friedman, V.S. Naipaul, and Rupert Murdoch. But the 1992 Wriston Lecturer was a comparatively unknown figure—the Reverend Johnny Ray Youngblood, pastor of St. Paul Community Baptist Church in the East New York section of Brooklyn.
Reverend Youngblood’s ministry among the predominantly black residents of a troubled New York City neighborhood is the subject of Samuel Freedman’s new book, an account of a year spent observing closely the various undertakings of the church and its pastor. Freedman provides a sympathetic and occasionally quite moving portrait of the moral and cultural universe created and sustained by black American Christians in the midst of the maelstrom that contemporary inner-city life has become. His book should be read, not so much for its prose, which is adequate to the task though seldom more than that, but rather for the window Freedman opens onto a world little known to outsiders.
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