Sunday, November 9, 2008


On Thursday, we had our regular community clergy gathering. This month we were slated to meet at the local African American church. They had prepared a wonderful lunch for us: sandwiches and wraps and pie and other sweets that I can't even remember now. It was quite a feast. One of the pastors there had printed two poems by James Weldon Johnson. He recited the first one for us, and could barely get through one of the stanzas, he was so filled with emotion. He told us that he had called his 93 year old father in Chicago on Tuesday morning, only to discover that his father had already voted. He said that his father felt so grateful that he had lived to see that day.

The second poem was Lift Every Voice and Sing. It is the Black National Anthem. He was going to recite that poem too, but one of us suggested that we might sing it, instead. So we did, all twelve of us around the table a capella.

I didn't know this at the time, but Lift Every Voice was sung often in the schools in the segregated south, just like I remember singing My Country 'Tis of Thee.

After our lunch, I met briefly with the other African American pastor. We are planning the next Martin Luther King Day worship service, which will take place this year the day before inauguration day. We also took a moment to check in about the social justice organization we both work with.

He confessed to me that he was not sure who he would vote for until he went into the voting booth on Tuesday. (He didn't tell me, either.) Neither candidate, he thought, was perfect. Both were good, but flawed people.

I told some of this story in church on Sunday. Most people did not know there was an African American church in our town.

We still have a lot of work to do. But we're starting.


Magdalene6127 said...

Beautiful story Diane. Thank you for sharing it.

ProclaimingSoftly (PSanafter-thought) said...

There seems to be more interest and hope and wonder in this election even among my white acquaintances than in the past. I'm sure I can't even imagine the feelings among black people.

BTW, we've sung Lift Every Voice in our very white church. It is #841 in the ELW. We've kinda of got some wide ranging tastes. Today the choir anthem was I've got peace like a River and another hymn was a sort of Hispanic version of an old hymn, Take my life.

Presbyterian Gal said...

And you're helping lead the way! That's wonderful.

Ruth Hull Chatlien said...

I love "Lift Every Voice and Sing."

Do you happen to remember the name of the other poem? I used to edit literature anthologies, so I'm just curious.

Diane said...

PS -- our contemporary service LOVES that new version of "Take my Life".

Ruth -- I think we did a pretty good job on "Lift every voice." it's not that easy. the other poem -- I couldn't find it on line. I should have copies of it because the pastor made handouts, but I can't find them right now.

Sarah S-D said...

i grew up, in the north, in the 80', singing "Lift Every Voice" several times a year in school- usually all in the month of february, but it is SO familiar to me I think everyone knows it. i learned in my first call.... not so.

yes, a moving story, thanks for sharing.

Jennifer said...

Amen. Amen!

Crimson Rambler said...

yep...we "don't know they're there"...whatever the "other" population may be...they don't have the option of "not knowing WE'RE there" though.