Last year I attended a prayer vigil in downtown Jackson on the night of
a scheduled execution. A hard rain was falling. I recognized a couple
of people as fellow clergy and a couple of others as consistent
advocates for justice in our small state. It was just a small crowd
composed of those who have been praying and working against capital
punishment for years.
In the year after the tsunami destroyed the Sri Lankan coastline,
lawmakers threatened to pass a law making Christian evangelism illegal.
The proposed law was popular because of widespread anti-Christian
sentiment. The majority of Sri Lankans are Buddhist, and they resented
the privilege given to minority Christians under British rule in the
I spent most of the day after Hurricane Katrina checking on members,
especially older ones, in and around Clinton, Mississippi, where I
live. Clinton did not sustain serious damage, but we lost all power and
lots of trees and roofs, and there was a palpable sense of fear and
Our church has an unwritten rule: we will never ignore a member’s basic need. Whenever our members know of a need in the church, they call me. “Is there any money in the benevolence fund? You know Johnny got cut back on his hours, and his kids need help with school supplies.” The answer is always yes. We’ve yet to encounter a need we couldn’t fill.
I loved Denny Spear, my first pastor, because he knew my name and greeted me weekly. What I didn’t know was that Brother Spear, as I called him, was a man of great conviction. He had resigned from his previous church one Sunday when his members voted not to admit black worshipers.