Monday, January 19, 2009

The Dream at a White Church

A really cool thing happened at my church the other night. I decided to hold off on writing about it until today, given the holiday we celebrate today and the president we swear in tomorrow. Thursday evening, there was a gathering at First Baptist Church of Martinsville in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Our pastor, Dennis Knight, coordinated and co-hosted the event with Rev. Tyler Millner of Morning Star Holy Church in Axton. A quick bit of context for out-of-area readers: First Baptist is a historically white, upper-class church with a 125-year history in the heart of Martinsville City and Tyler Millner is an influential pastor in the local African-American community. 

I arrived at 6:30 and the building was already beginning to fill up--by the 7:15 start time, our cavernous sanctuary was more full than I have ever seen. Pastor Knight spoke a few words about Dr. King and gave an opening prayer, then Rev. Millner spoke. I was in the balcony operating the sound and lighting system, which gave me just the right perspective to look down and see what I hope Dr. King can see--white and black sitting side by side on the same pews. I saw people who were old enough to remember segregated movie theaters, colored-only water fountains and the battles over school integration, but none of them showed signs of remembering those things with bitterness. Those things are merely history and this is the beginning of the future. At the end of the evening, following two outstanding gospel performances, they all chatted, shook hands and thanked each other for coming; I sincerely hope we do this again next year. 

My next post will be a video of the "I Have a Dream" speech. King makes reference to the Founding Fathers and the high standards they set for the nation but could not themselves attain, and the continuing struggle to reach our founding ideals. The Founders left us a road map showing our destination. It's as if they're standing over our shoulder pointing and saying, "Doesn't this sound great? That's the kind of country we should be." Thursday night showed me that we're still heading toward that destination; Tuesday morning shows that we are much closer than we have ever been.

Cross-posted to Blue Commonwealth.

No comments: