The first all-race election in South Africa was likened to the ancient Hebrews' exodus from Egypt at one Baltimore church yesterday, and celebrated as one of "the wonders of God" at another.
"God is just as happy this morning as he can be," the Rev. Marion C. Bascom told his mostly black congregation at Douglas Memorial Community Church at Lafayette and Madison avenues in Baltimore.
He compared the election last week to the Hebrews' escape from slavery in Egypt and said that Nelson Mandela's ascendancy to national leadership is evidence of God's presence in the world.
"Who could have thought that a man who spent 27 years in jail would now be at the door of leadership of one of the great nations of the world?" Mr. Bascom said. "This is simply another piece to the ever enlarging piece of what God is trying to do in this world."
While some believe power and violence are the only ways to bring about change, Mr. Bascom said, the progress blacks have made in the United States and now in South Africa illustrate God's influence in the world.
"God's time and our time are different kinds of time," he said to a reply of "amens" from the congregation at the Bolton Hill church.
Mr. Bascom said some would question his preaching on South Africa and accuse him of straying from the Bible.
But, he said, it is important to look for evidence of God's presence in the world today.
"God is forever going beyond the pages we made sacred," he said. "Pages have a way of ending, but God never ends."
Mr. Mandela's call for reconciliation is the epitome of Christianity, Mr. Bascom said.
As worshipers got in line to receive Communion, he urged them to remember not only Jesus but also those, who like Mr. Mandela, act in a Christ-like way.
At St. Peter Claver Roman Catholic Church in West Baltimore, the choir dedicated hymns of thanksgiving for the successful completion of the South African election, and the Rev. Robert Kearns called the event one of the "wonders of God."
As Father Kearns began his homily, the congregation, led by a member from the African nation of Zimbabwe, erupted in applause.
Preaching on the theme of God as the vine and the people as its branches, Father Kearns told the mostly black parish that the election in South Africa showed that "God is acting through people."
He said that what happened in South Africa is an example of "people going against all odds" to hold an election without violence.
Father Kearns also praised the international community for adhering to sanctions against apartheid, South Africa's now-abandoned policy of racial segregation and political and economic discrimination against nonwhites.
"The boycott and sanctions added strength to the leadership in South Africa and let [the white government] know it was time for change," he told the congregation at 1546 N. Fremont Ave.
Father Kearns prayed that the election in South Africa will be "a light of hope that will radiate through all of Africa and to Eastern Europe and Northern Ireland and wherever people are struggling."