I recently experienced the movie Selma and was profoundly moved. I have to admit that my knowledge of this event was not very detailed, knowing only the end result being the proposal and ultimate passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. It was so necessary because of the "Jim Crow" system of government-sanctioned racial oppression and segregation in American south. It was sad to see the treatment of African Americans, but was especially shocking to me was the barriers put up to block Blacks from their right to vote. First, you had to get a "voucher" from another registered voter, stating that you were, who you said you were. Considering that less than 2% of eligible voters in Alabama at that time were African American, this was nearly impossible! Then, the next thing you had to do was pay a poll tax for all the years you were eligible to vote and failed to vote. If you could get over that hurdle, you then had to be brave enough to walk into a courthouse, fill out an application and answer any obscure question that the registrar deemed relevant. If you made it through that inquisition, then your name and address was posted in the local newspaper for any lunatic to harass and attack you in your home! It was madness and it was the law!
I was moved to tears watching hatred and violence unleashed upon these peaceful protesters, some being murdered, without trial. It was pressed upon me that these marchers were some of the bravest people our nation has ever known. They marched, knowing that they would be assaulted and yet, they did not retaliate in kind. It was hard, but they knew their cause was just. As Dr. King stated, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."
In the theatre, there were many young people there and I was glad to see that. At the depiction of President Johnson introducing the Voting Right legislation, there was an eruption of applause, as there was at the end. In Dr. King's Noble Peace Prize speech, he stated, "What we are seeing now is a freedom explosion, the realization of 'an idea whose time has come'". It struck me that 50 years later and considering the protests in New York City and Ferguson, MO. that this is a movie, whose time has come. It is my prayer that we might honor the legacy of these modern prophets and courageous Americans with bold action to stand in solidarity with those in need. That's what Jesus did and expects from his followers.
I’ve been the pastor here for five months and let me let you in on what I’ve been doing. Not that it’s a secret! I’ve been spending a lot of time hearing the stories of this congregation. Hearing your life stories and your hopes and dreams for First Baptist. The spectrum has been shared with me. From hearing frightening personal accounts of 9/11 to personal joys of weddings and new grandchildren. Throughout these encounters, I have initiated what I like to call, the “3-D’s” approach to ministry. The first “D” is to Discover what the gifts, strengths, and needs of the congregation are through our conversations. In spring, we will begin the Developing phase, where we will look at our vision, mission, and dream together where we sense God is calling us to be and how we can accomplish that reality together. The next phase will be to Demonstrate that vision and celebrate together as we live into God’s promise for us. It’s important to note that these “3-D’s” not static but are an ongoing process, where we are always discovering, developing, and demonstrating God’s amazing possibilities.
Make no mistake; we have amazing possibilities before us. Our job is to discover, develop, and demonstrate these opportunities within ourselves and within our congregation. That’s what being a disciple of Christ is all about: learning to see ourselves as God see’s us – the beloved children of God, and helping others to realize this truth for themselves. The Gospel message of love, grace, compassion and mercy is too important not to be shared. It reminds me of an exchange I read in the popular adolescent fiction trilogy Divergent, where a mother is asking her son to help her in leading group of people who have are leaderless and he responds that he is not important. His mother responds, “Fair enough, but what I’m asking of you is to become important!”
Are we ready to become important to White Plains as a congregation? Are we ready to invest is the messy process of creating a community that sees nothing more important than extending the table of Christ’s love and reconciliation with the world? I think that I’ve discovered that Frist Baptist is and that gets me excited to be your pastor as we seek to discover, develop and demonstrate the loving possibilities of God! If you are seeking a church home, we might just be the place for you as we embark upon a mission of God's leading. Come grow with us!
I'm a follower of Christ, husband, father, friend, pastor, story teller, asker of questions, inspired by biblical narratives, social justice advocate, sports enthusiast, drinker of over priced coffee and general seeker of God's redemptive possibilities. Yeah, that about covers it. (If you discover something else, let me know!)