Friday, August 18, 2000

Black Family Reunion celebrates reaching out

An example of love brings Lynches honor

By Marie McCain
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Theirs was a simpler time. A time when family fun could be had without roller coasters, Nintendo and big-screen TV.

[photo] The Rev. Damon Lynch Jr. and his wife, Barbara, are being honored today.
(Jeff Swinger photo)
| ZOOM |
        “Friday nights were family nights at our house,” says the Rev. Damon Lynch Jr., of his home with wife, Barbara. “Sometimes we'd head to the drive-in and, if the kids fell asleep, we'd do what people do at a drive-in: We'd smooch. I loved Friday nights.”

        The Lynches, along with their children, Damon III, 40, and Cristal Muoneke, 38, and their families, today will be named Family of the Year at the 12th annual Midwest Black Family Reunion Celebration in Cincinnati.

        The reunion, expected to attract 200,000 people, kicked off Thursday night with a town hall meeting, and includes a parade Saturday in Avondale; and gospel, jazz and blues music tonight, Saturday and Sunday at Sawyer Point.

        More than a lesson on how to live as a family, the Lynches set the example of how to love as a family, organizers say.

        “We look for people who, yes, care for their families, but who go outside themselves, outside their families to help others,” says event organizer Cassandra Robinson. “Each one reaching one. The Lynches are an example of this.”

        Candidates for Family of the Year are nominated by the public and chosen by event officials.

        For 30 years, the Rev. Mr. Lynch, 61, has pastored the New Jerusalem Baptist Church in Carthage. His beliefs about the power of the family are well known.

        “The family is God's front line of defense against the forces of evil,” he says. “I whole-heartedly believe that whatever happens, a family can work it out.”

        Times haven't always been easy for the Lynches, who both grew up in Lincoln Heights and now live in North Avondale.

        A former barber, the Rev. Mr. Lynch decided to become a minister in 1966.

        “My wife wanted me to be the best preacher I could be, and that meant I had to go back to school and get an education,” he says of his 59-year-old wife.

        By this time, the couple had two small children. And, while the Rev. Mr. Lynch went to school at Cincinnati Bible College in Price Hill, Mrs. Lynch would help him do his his homework at night.

        He, in turn, would help with the housework and with the children.

        After graduating from CBC in 1973, the Rev. Lynch got his master's in business administration from Notre Dame University in South Bend, Ind.

        Being recognized as Family of the Year is a humbling honor, they say.

        “The word "family' has such a broad definition now,” Mrs. Lynch says. “And, there are plenty of people working to raise their children prayerfully and with love.”

        As the couple raised their two children, they relied heavily on their religious faith and created an open environment where their children could talk with them about anything.

        “Sometimes people were surprised by how open we were,” says Mrs. Lynch. “But we wanted them to learn life lessons.”

        The couple was surprised when their son opted to follow in his father's footsteps. As a young adult he had had trouble settling on a definite path, switching from school to school, subject to subject.

        “But now he is doing fantastically well,” Mrs. Lynch says. The younger Mr. Lynch and wife, Johanna, serve at the New Prospect Baptist Church, in Woodlawn. They have two children, Damon IV, 16, and Eric Charles, 11.

        The elder Lynches also have a daughter, Cristal, who is an obste trician/gynecologist and married to Anthony Muoneke. They live in Palos Verdes, Calif., with their son, Kenneth Awari, 4.

        “You want your children to do better than you. I think we've succeeded,” the Rev. Mr. Lynch says.
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