FLINT, Michigan — It was around the time that the Rev. Kenneth Stewart said he hoped a woman would be the next president that the faithful at Flint’s House of Prayer Missionary Baptist Church stood and cheered.
Maybe the crowd was more boisterous because the people at the church knew that a possible future president was in the building Sunday morning — Madame Secretary, Stewart called her. But it is difficult to imagine the pastor’s soulful performance as anything but normal for a Baptist church in a town failed by its leaders and virtually forgotten by the country until this recent tragedy struck.
“I don’t know what kind of crisis you are in ... but be not dismayed,” he screamed.
There are few words to properly do justice to what Stewart laid down on Sunday morning. It was beyond powerful. It caused him to sweat profusely and run out of breath following a 15-minute rap in which he scoffed at the water crisis troubling this city of nearly 100,000 — what is a lack of clean drinking water compared to the power of God?
It was a tough act for Hillary Clinton to follow.
Originally billed as a “community meeting,” as Stewart’s sermon went on it became clear that Clinton would simply be addressing the congregation from the pastor’s pulpit.
Prepared to tell Flint exactly what it wanted to hear, she performed well.
“The time for action is now.”
“One child with lead poisoning is one child too many.”
“It’s not just the infrastructure, it is a problem for human beings.”
Expand Head Start, and support home nurse programs, more money for special education — “All things that address the problems that lead poisoning can cause.”
Clinton tied in her experience as a senator for New York dealing with lead poisoning there — of the paint chip variety — and she made a promise.
“I will fight for you in Flint no matter how long it takes,” she said, garnering one of the louder applause breaks of her remarks.
With her own sermon stretching on, Clinton was looked on by many in Stewart’s church as a second savior. And without stepping too far into the mannerisms and voice inflections of a black preacher, she was more than willing to play that role.
“If what had happened in Gross Pointe, or Bloomfield Hills,” she said in reference to two mostly white, wealthy communities outside of Detroit, “I think we all know we would have had a solution yesterday.”
“The children of Flint are just as precious as the children of any other part of America!”
And the crowd cheered.
Clinton may have served as Flint’s savior on Sunday, but when she leaves the people here will be on their own again, looking to themselves or the original messiah to watch over them and fix this mess.
But having no safe drinking water is the weakest of challenges for the faithful, Stewart reminded his followers. And if you were in the purple pews of his church on Sunday, damned if you didn’t believe him.
“While you tryin’ to figure it out, God already done worked it out!” he proclaimed.
“If a city’s water supply died, can it live again?” he asked.
The answer is yes, because it is always yes as long as you recognize your lord and savior Jesus Christ. Faith cures all. It absolves sin, redeems the sinner, makes pure the wicked, cures the sick, and provides answers when they are in short supply, according to Stewart. Flint’s leaders failed its people, but what the government can’t do, the church and the community can.
Clearly a committed Clinton supporter, Stewart and many in the crowd believe she can help too.
Clinton, Stewart said, is “The one that we been waitin’ on.”