I had never heard of Will Campbell until the day I walked into a bookstore and saw a brand-new novel called The Glad River, written by a Baptist preacher whom the dust jacket described as a “steeple dropout” and veteran civil rights activist.
I was a student pastor of a small rural Texas Baptist church. While I didn’t know it yet, it was a good church. But at the time the church and I were in turmoil over the issue of race. At one point I had a shotgun pulled on me with the threat to blow my “nigger-loving head off”; in the year ahead I would have a man come after me in a congregational meeting to “whip the pastor’s ass because I’m tired of his preaching on race.”
After reading the dust jacket I didn’t hesitate; I bought the book. I read The Glad River in three days and then cried for another three.
Kyle Childress is pastor of Austin Heights Baptist Church in Nacogdoches, Texas, and author, with Rodney Wallace Kennedy, of Will Campbell, Preacher Man: Essays in the Spirit of a Divine Provocateur (Cascade).