Academy Award-winning actor Denzel Washington delivered the keynote address at the Church Of God In Christ's (COGIC) annual "We Care" Charities Banquet, where he opened up about his deep Christian faith and emphasized the importance of raising children in the fear of the Lord.
According to a report from The St. Louis American, the 60-year-old actor recited the Lord's Prayer before highlighting his family's connection with the Church of Christ in God and sharing his personal testimony.
"My father, my earthly father, Denzel Washington Sr. was a pastor for the Church of God in Christ for 60 years," Washington said. "I can remember the most important time in our house - and he would be so excited - was when he was preparing to attend Convocation in Memphis, Tennessee. I didn't know what he was doing when he got here - in fact, I couldn't even say the word, but I knew it was important to him."
The "Man on Fire" actor recalled how every year, his father would travel from upstate New York to Tennessee.
"He would get his best two suits together, and my mother would fry him a tin of chicken and prepare a thermos of coffee, and he would make the drive," Washington said. "I know he's smiling in heaven, seeing his son doing the best I can do today, by the grace of God."
The St. Louis American notes that the purpose of the COGIC Cares Banquet, which this year was attended by over 1,000 people, is to raise funds for international disaster relief and scholarship funds. This year, the organization offered 37 scholarships to students around the nation
In continuing his address, Washington, who has four children with his wife, Pauletta, emphasized the importance of sowing into young people both in faith and finances, drawing connections to his life and personal testimony.
"Forty years ago, March 27, 1975 I was in my mother's beauty shop. I had flunked out of college. I had a 1.7-grade point average. I had no future," Washington said. "I was sitting looking in the mirror, and I see a woman behind me sitting under the dryer. Of course, the voice of God always comes from under a dryer."
The woman, one of the oldest members of his family church, began asking for a pen and paper so that she could write down the prophecy she had for Washington's life, the actor recalled.
"She said, 'Young man, you are going to travel the world and speak to people," Washington said. "Now mind you I was 20 years old, with a 1.7-grade point average and had flunked out of school. She said, 'You are going to preach.'"
"In this 40 year journey, I guess she was right," he continued. "Through my work I have spoken to millions of people. In 2015, I said I'm no longer just going to speak through my work. I'm going to make a conscious effort to get up and speak about what God has done for me."
Washington also credited his massive success to the prayers of his mother: "I remember saying to my mother at a time when I was feeling myself, 'Ma did you ever think that I was going to become this...' She said 'boy, do you know all the people who have been praying for your behind...all the prayer cloths, and prayer meetings...' And she made me clean the windows."
Before taking the stage, Washington was introduced by his pastor, Church of God in Christ Presiding Bishop Charles Blake.
"You are aware of the great roles that he has played - for some of the most significant and some of the great movies of our time," the pastor told the crowded room. "And he has an extensive resume describing the roles that he has played and awards that he has received."
Blake continued: "But as his pastor, I just want you to know him. Here is a man who has shown great love and great respect for his church and his pastor."
Washington, best known for iconic films such as "Training Day," "American Gangster" and "Philadelphia," has been labeled as one of the most powerful Christians in Hollywood due to due to his outspokenness concerning his Christian faith.
In a graduation speech held last May 9, the actor inspired the graduates of Dillard University to "put God first in everything you do."
"Number one, put God first in everything you do. Everything that you think you see in me and everything you think I've accomplished and everything you think I have... everything I have is by the grace of God, understand that. It's a gift," he said.