I’ve been re-reading David Halberstam’s book, “The Children,” which is (I think) one of the best overviews of the Civil Rights movement. As I was reading, I discovered that yesterday was the forty-fourth anniversary of the lunch-counter sit-ins here in Nashville. The leaders of these sit-ins would go on to provide much of the leadership under Martin Luther King Jr. for the movement.
With all this going through my mind, I discovered that there was a workship today out at the American Baptist Bible College (a historic school in the Civil rights movement) featuring two leaders of the sit-ins, Jim Lawson and C.T. Vivian. The topic on the relationships between the current drug policy in the US and racism is for another day. But what grabbed me today was a comment that Jim Lawson said about the movement. Jim noted first of all that the movement was rooted in Christian love, with a methodology adopted from Ghandi. But then he noted that the movement didn’t happen spontaneously, as some would like to believe. The protests, the marches, the public displays of opposition were rooted in a plan which addressed a specific issue and then a methodology was created to deal with that issue. And in most cases, this began with some sort of training for the participants in the movement.
What does this mean for me? As a seat of the pants kind of guy, I tend to try to bring about change in too many areas at once, and don’t always work out my method as clearly as I should. As I reflect on my ministry so far, I think that the most effective work that I have done was in developing the caring ministry at BUMC, which began with a desire to instill the value of care in the congregation, and involved training for every member of the congregation. It was very methodical, perhaps too much so. But it created a groundswell which continues to this day.
Lord, I don’t need patience (well, actually I do, but I’m afraid to ask you for some). But help me to focus and work your plan for change — in our church and in the world.