Prophets and Saints

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Yesterday in church (Edgehill United Methodist Church) I led A Litany for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. But in my mind I was also hearing and seeing and remembering the saints and prophets of our little congregation.

The group of people who started the church in 1966, planted at the edge of an “urban renewal” failed experiment (the projects), black and white together in a time when that wasn’t done, intending to welcome everyone no matter their color, class, or status. Led by a small, diverse group, pastored by Bill Barnes.

This church taught and nurtured me when I came, fresh out of college, to Nashville, TN. Worshiping in the garage of a little house, I sang every other Sunday in Marjorie Campbell’s choir, learning the chords and cadences of the music of the black church. (On the alternate Sundays, I played my guitar in the folk band that led the singing on those weeks.)

I sat at the feet of Laura Buck McCray, raised in Tuskegee, Alabama, daughter to an assistant of Booker T. Washington. Laura, trained in non-violent resistance at the Highlander Center along with a quiet woman named Rosa Parks.

I learned to sing, with gusto, “Lift ev’ry voice and sing, ’till Earth and heaven ring/Ring with the harmony of liberty.”

I learned the stories of those brave prophets and saints who put their bodies on the line for justice in Nashville and other places around the country. Those brave prophets and saints whose stories continue to unfold today during a time when people hesitate to say that #blacklivesmatter.

I am still a part of this church, who, this year, celebrates 50 years of ministry. May it continue to be a participant in God’s justice; teaching, preaching, loving, welcoming, growing, nurturing all God’s people.

May it be so.

6 thoughts on “Prophets and Saints”

  1. Just looked at this photo again and saw that this prayer, while beautiful, is not welcoming to my gender-neutral friends and us using exclusive language for God. When I led the prayer, I changed “his” to “God’s.” Please forgive me for excluding you in this prayer inviting justice. Re-write: “In every era, God has chosen people to serve the needs of the world.”

  2. Thank you for this reflection, Beth, and thank you for leading us so strongly in the litany yesterday. What a witness Edgehill has been over these past five decades! While I’m a bit wistful that I wasn’t here from the start, I’m very grateful to be a member for almost for almost 20 years now.

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