There is much in the news these days about race relationships, especially relationships between Black and White people. Having been born and raised the south (Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia, and North Carolina), I am sensitive to the issues. Let me share with you some poignant experiences.
My first church following seminary was not a large church, but it was filled with good people. In an early deacons’ meeting, one man introduced a difficult issue. The country was in the midst of the civil rights movement, and Black people were presenting themselves to churches to see if they would be seated. I listened fearfully and prayerfully. The discussion that followed was less than Christian. I thought, “These are good men; they know better than what they are saying.” Finally, a wise and observant deacon said, “Pastor, you’ve been mighty quiet; what do you think?” The book of James tells us to ask God when we need wisdom (James 1:5). I did that quietly and then said, “I doubt seriously that you guys want to hear what I think.” It was deathly quiet for a moment; then the matter was dropped and never arose again while I was there.
Years later, I became pastor of another church whose membership included one Black family. The husband’s name was Ivery Moon. He and his wife had 13 children, including two sets of twins. Ivery and I became good friends. He had great respect for his pastor and sensed my respect and love for him. One Christmas as he left church, he gave me a dollar for a Christmas present. He was a day laborer with a large family, and I knew he needed that dollar. I wanted to give it back; but instead I thanked him and filed it for safekeeping. I kept it for years; then it got lost when we were moving files. I still hope that as my affairs are tidied that “sacred” dollar will emerge.
When I became a Kansas City pastor, there were many Black people in our congregation. Most of them were wonderful church members. One lady, a retired schoolteacher, mentored me on how to preach to Black people. She was knowledgeable, gentle, and wise. I valued her counsel.
Andrew Davis was a Black deacon in our church in Kansas City. He and his wife, Dorsey, were a great encouragement to me. Andrew had a deep, mellow voice; and when he prayed, the entire church was moved. One of my daughters said, “Dad, when Mr. Davis prays, I feel like God is right there.”
As I reflect upon these experiences, I say, “Thank you, God!”
Wade Paris writes a weekly syndicated column, “The Shepherd Calls.”