*When delivered from the pulpit by Bishop Stanley K. Smith, the senior pastor of St. John Missionary Full Gospel Baptist Church in Meadville, the word “amen” can take many forms.

It’s a period. It can also be a comma, or a question mark. A pause. It can be a backspace on one of those rare occasions when Smith’s smooth baritone makes a misstep.

Most times, though, the word “amen” is used as an exclamation — “Amen!”

And then a few scattered folks in among the pews will give it right back — “Amen!”

The call is one thing. But the response can be startling for anyone that hasn’t experienced anything like that before.

“That person just shouted,” one might think, “In church?! Are they allowed to do that?”

Culture shock, call it. And it’s probably not the only time its happened at the North Main Street place of worship lately.

For most of its 94 years, St. John Baptist has served a predominantly African-American congregation. Yet, nowadays the Sunday services boast a nearly 50/50 split of black and white folks in the pews.

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