This article is part of a series in celebration of a new, dynamic voice in Black America: the NUBIANO Exchange. Brace yourself for the NUBIANO experience.
Reverend A. R. Bernard is the founder and spiritual leader of the Christian Cultural Center, New York City’s largest and fastest-growing church. Every Sunday, his teachings touch the lives of a 29,000-member congregation and reach an additional 300,000 via WMCA-AM on his morning radio show. Reverend Bernard’s reach extends beyond the pulpit, though. He is a board member of the New York City Economic Development Corporation, a member of New York City School Chancellor Joel Klein’s Advisory Cabinet, and President of the Council of Churches of the City of New York.
In May 2006, New York Magazine dubbed Reverend Bernard as one of the city’s most influential New Yorkers. Similar accolades have followed, with the New York Daily News (February 2007) selecting him as the top religious leader in New York City and the New York Post (February 2008) naming him the most influential black New Yorker. In spite of Reverend Bernard’s outstanding leadership and laundry list of achievements, he asserts the fruits of his life’s work would have been impossible without the grace of God.
On November 6, 2007, Reverend A.R. Bernard published Happiness Is…: Simple Steps to a Life of Joy, a book that defines what happiness is, how to find it and how to keep it. Upon review of Happiness Is, Reverend Bernard managed to squeeze some time out of his busy schedule and settle down for an interview with Clayton Perry, reflecting on life, religion and, of course, Happiness Is.
Clayton Perry: Let's just dive into the book. My first question is, what is your happiest memory?
Rev. A. R. Bernard: What is my happiest memory? Wow. I have to speak in terms of my faith and that is when I settled the question on my faith and spirituality in Christ.
Clayton Perry: Did you find God or did God find you?
Rev. A. R. Bernard: Well, He wasn’t lost; I was. He found me. Actually, He decided the right time to interrupt my life.
Clayton Perry: My favorite chapter in the book is Chapter Two: Happiness Is Learning to Accept the Past. In it, you said people should not let the future be held captive by the past. I know that over the years, in my own journey to finding Christ, I always wondered why Christ would want to forgive someone like me and how He could use someone like me, in spite of all I have done.
Rev. A. R. Bernard: Well, it’s like the apostle Paul [said] in Philippians Chapter 3. He said, “I count not myself to have apprehended but I’m trying to understand that for which I’ve been apprehended by Christ.” He couldn’t understand why Christ would go so far to seize his life and [was asking], what does it mean? That’s a journey. I don’t think we’ll ever answer that question, not in this life.
Clayton Perry: Do you ever question God?
Rev. A. R. Bernard: Oh, absolutely, very politely, and respectfully.
Clayton Perry: That’s the best way, I guess. At what point did you decide to become a minister of His word?
Rev. A. R. Bernard: Well, I didn’t decide. I discovered a gift – of learning, of insight into the Scripture, of articulating the Scripture in a very practical, relevant way. As I began to exercise that gift, it began to make room for me in ministry. How do I translate that now into a calling? The denomination that I was in and some ministerial leaders helped me to understand that calling and clarify it, and I recognized that God’s hand was upon my life. I was a banker for 10 years, and a certain dissatisfaction with the business world that I was working in coupled with the discovery of a gift and a calling on my life. I simply answered [the call].