WATCH – Like Father, Like Son: Black Activists and Pastors, Rev. Otis Moss Jr. and Rev. Otis Moss III Tag-Team Preach on Father’s Day

The Rev. Otis Moss Jr., left, and his son, the Rev. Otis Moss III, at Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago. Photo courtesy of Dawn Stephens

About 15 years ago, the Rev. Otis Moss III invited his father, the Rev. Otis Moss Jr., to tag-team preach with him on Father’s Day.

The tradition began at Tabernacle Baptist Church in Augusta, Ga., and shifted when the 46-year-old preacher transferred to Chicago’s Trinity United Church of Christ. His father, 82, pastor emeritus of Olivet Institutional Baptist Church in Cleveland, is a civil rights veteran who marched in the 1960s with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

RNS spoke to both father and son, whose churches are predominantly African-American, about their tag-team preaching, the state of the black church and what it means to pass the baton from one to the other.

The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

How did you start tag-team preaching?

Son: I witnessed other ministers do a tag-team message in a very different vein, a husband and wife tag team for their married couples ministry in the ’90s. That was the first time I heard or witnessed a tag-team message. And it was my initial idea to create a tag message for a father and a son — not two different messages but one message preached by two different people.

And, Rev. Moss Jr., you accepted this idea?

Father: With enthusiasm. I was familiar with dual presentations together but I had not participated in the true tag team where you carry in a dialogical way the message between the two individuals.

Rev. Moss III, what is your first recollection of seeing your father preach and did you think early on that you would follow in his shoes?

Son: I had the opportunity to hear him every Sunday. It was a part of my childhood growing up witnessing my father preach not just in church but at conventions, revivals, special programs across the nation. I had great respect and love for the African-American homiletical tradition, respect at a level where I never would have even thought, early on, that I would be able to stand in a pulpit and communicate at the level my father communicates Sunday to Sunday or the level of the individuals my father brought to the pulpit — Gardner C. Taylor, Wyatt Tee Walker, Carolyn Knight, Bishop Vashti McKenzie and many others.

But you changed your mind and decided this was to be?

Son: I did. I was called to the ministry during my time period at Morehouse College. My focus was not the pastoral ministry but media, cinematography, some form of activism. I had a great respect for the church. I always knew that I would be a part of a church family but I never envisioned I would be leading a church.

Rev. Moss Jr., what is your first memory of seeing your son preach and what did you think of his sermon?

Father: My deepest, longest and profound memory is the time he did our Youth Day at Olivet Institutional Baptist Church in Cleveland. He was about 15 years old and was the youngest Youth Day speaker for the 11 o’clock worship. And he did, I must say, a terrific job. It was at that moment that I felt an inner something that said, you haven’t heard the last of this. His decorum, his naturalness with his delivery, was beyond expectation.

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SOURCE: Religion News Service