I am thankful to have been part of several important events lately. Each of these involving our community have revolved around racial justice and our society’s need to take seriously the work that has been done, as well as the work still left to be do. You may have noticed in a few of my recent sermons references to a few of these.
I was so honored to have represented Decatur at the recent Georgia Police-Community Trust Initiative in LaGrange. It was co-sponsored by International Association of Chiefs of Police, the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police and the National Network For Safe Communities at John Jay College in Manhattan. The results of what these organizations are doing and the inspired work in communities like LaGrange inspired me in ways I continue to struggle to adequately explain. Public confessions and powerful moments of reconciliation and working together demonstrate the much needed conversations and redemptive exercises that I believe God is challenging all of us to engage in.
We hosted a Nurturing Faith gathering and banquet in Carekker Hall two weeks ago. Dr. Albert Paul Brinner was the special guest. He grew up with Martin Luther King, Jr. and served for a number of years as the Associate Pastor at Ebeneezer Baptist Church here in Atlanta. He recounted with grace and humor the many ebbs and flows of the Civil Rights Movement. He spoke with poignancy of the many times he and all of the leaders in those days felt so discouraged, hurt, frustrated and despair. And he reminded us again how far we have come, and how far we have yet to go, and together, how much more good God is calling us to do.
We co-hosted a very important evening called “Bearing Witness” at our sister church, Decatur First United Methodist. Internationally known authors and speakers, Austin Channing Brown (author of I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness) and Hank Klebinoff (Pulitzer Prize winner, professor at Emory and contributor to National Public Radio) shared with us. For those of us who attended, we were educated about many new ways of viewing the world and understanding more of our country’s less known history. We were challenged; and we were inspired. We needed to hear what both of them said, showed and shared.
We also hosted a “Conversations” event just a few days later with Dr. Catherine Meeks and Rev. Nibs Stroupe. They co-authored a very important book on the remarkable woman, Ida B. Wells. Like Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman, Ida B. Wells was a courageous, outspoken, resilient, strong and incredibly influential African-American woman in the post-Civil War era. Yet, despite her lasting influence on public policy and civil rights along with her valuable inspiration for African-Americans during the despairing times of the Jim Crow era, many of us had never heard of her. We should have. And now we can know more about what she accomplished and what she endured. Ida B. Wells is a prophet for our time, and her inspiring story told so well by Dr. Meeks’ and Rev. Stroupe’s is a necessary addition to your reading list.
In each of these events and in the many encounters and conversations I have had over these last several weeks, I have become increasingly aware how fortunate we are to have so many resources at our disposal and opportunities for our education. And I am increasingly convinced this is a “God thing.” That is, I do not think it is a co-incidence we are being afforded so many tremendous opportunities to learn, to grow, to expand our sensitivities and to increase our understanding. We can never know enough about what has gone before us. And I believe God calls us consistently, as much as we can, to add to whatever we think we know, to deepen our discipleship, and to become better followers of Jesus.
With the incredible resources and opportunities Decatur presents, I truly feel God is offering us the chance to broaden the reach of the love we receive in such abundance. I am glad to be on this journey with you. Thanks be to God!