My grandmother told me a story many years ago. One day as an eighteen-year- old, she was sitting in a restaurant eating lunch. A little African-American boy walked into the store with pockets full of coke bottles and caps. His small hands were desperately cupping even more caps, struggling to hold onto every precious piece. Most likely exhausted and slightly overwhelmed, he sat down on a bar stool while he was waiting to trade in his findings for some money. But right as he took that seat, the waitress behind the counter ran towards him shaking her finger, yelling, "You get up from there! You know you can't sit there! Now get up!" Slowly, the boy rose to his feet. Not saying a word, he walked quietly to the line and stood there waiting.
Nanny said, "From that day on I was done. It was then I knew all the adults were wrong. If I could go back and fight for that baby, I would tear up the whole restaurant."
A year before, I had seen the film Four Little Girls. Written by Spike Lee in 1997, the documentary recounts the lives of the children who were killed by the 16th street baptist church bombing in Birmingham, AL. In that film, one of the fathers of the young girls articulates the first time he remembered having to explain racism to his little girl. They had been out of the house all day and his daughter was hungry. He said, "I will never forget having to look my little girl in those sweet, brown eyes and explain to her that she couldn't have a sandwich because of the color of her skin."
These are just two examples of how the racist narrative began to be disrupted in my mind.
Since then, I've taken classes and read books and listened to my peers. For a long time I was afraid of saying the wrong thing, but then I realized that my fear of becoming one of those white pastors MLK wrote about in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail was bigger than my fear of messing up.
Some of you heard my sermon on Sept 25 titled ”Breath of Life" using Ezekiel 37:1-14. I was really nervous to share that day, but I felt very convicted that I should. All the while, I knew we would need much more than words from the pulpit.
So, I want to invite you into a conversation. I want to invite you to be vulnerable and to listen. I want to invite you step into some sensitive and uncomfortable territory. Some say that more conversation about race gets us nowhere. But I have been reassured that talking does do something. It begins to reconstruct a new narrative and it is often the gateway to thoughtful response.
Following Wednesday night dinner on January 11, we will begin a class on the intersection of race and religion using F. Willis Johnson's "Holding Up Your Corner" from 6-7 p.m. Cost is $7 for a participant book. We would love for you to join us. Checkout how you can register here, and be sure to look at all we have to offer for children, youth, and adults.
Rev. Sam McGlothlin