Archive

Month: November 2016

November 23, 2016

We’ve all heard people make fun of a Kum Ba Ya moment—times when somebody thinks a corny little song means we’re glossing over the harsh realities of the world and having a feel-good moment instead of taking real action.

I see that differently after listening, a couple of weeks ago, when Krista Tippett replayed an interview with a former civil rights activist on her NPR show On Being. Tippett, who will speak here at First Presbyterian Church in April as part of our Willard Lecture series, had interviewed Vincent Harding, a leading voice in the civil rights movement of the 1960s and beyond. Krista Tippett describes Mr. Harding, who died in 2014, like this:

He was wise about how the Civil Rights vision might speak to 21st century realities. Vincent Harding pursued this by way of patient yet passionate cross-cultural, cross-generational relationship. The Civil Rights Movement, he reminded us, was spiritually as well as politically vigorous; it aspired to a “beloved community,” not merely a tolerant integrated society.

At one point in the interview, Mr. Harding was talking about some of the songs that were a part of the Civil Rights Movement, songs like We Shall Not Be Moved and This Little Light of Mine. Then he talked about how the experience of singing that song in the African American church had become something people made fun of. He told a story that shed new light on the old song from Africa.

Whenever somebody jokes about Kum Ba Ya, my mind goes back to the Mississippi summer experience where the movement folks in Mississippi were inviting co-workers to come from all over the country, especially student types, to come and help in the process of voter registration, and Freedom School teaching, and taking great risks on behalf of the transformation of that state and of this nation. There were two weeks of orientation. The first week was the week in which (Michael) Schwerner and (Andrew) Goodman and their beloved brother Jimmy (Chaney) were there. And it was during the time that they had left the campus that they were first arrested, then released, and then murdered.

The word came back to us at the orientation that the three of them had not been heard from. Bob Moses, the magnificent leader of so much of the work in Mississippi, got up and told these hundreds of predominantly white young people that, if any of them felt that at this point they needed to return home or to their schools, we would not think less of them at all, but would be grateful to them for how far they had come.

But he said let’s take a couple of hours just for people to spend time talking on the phone with parents or whoever to try to make this decision and make it now. What I found as I moved around among the small groups that began to gather together to help each other was that, in group after group, people were singing Kum Ba Ya. “Come by here, my Lord, somebody’s missing, Lord, come by here. We all need you, Lord, come by here.”

I could never laugh at Kum Ba Ya moments after that because I saw then that almost no one went home from there. They were going to continue on the path that they had committed themselves to. And a great part of the reason why they were able to do that was because of the strength and the power and the commitment that had been gained through that experience of just singing together Kum Ba Ya.

There are so many places in our world and in our lives here in 2016 where we desperately need God’s presence. There are global issues—Syria, Isis. There are national issues—racism, economic inequity, political division. There are local issues—schools, affordable housing. There are personal issues—health, family.

For me, this is one of those times when we need to pray Kum Ba Ya—Come by here, Lord. Take a moment and think about some of those areas when we long for God to be present.

Kum bah ya, my Lord. Kum bah ya.

Someone’s crying, Lord. Kum bah ya.

Someone’s praying, Lord. Kum bah ya.

Someone’s singing, Lord. Kum bah ya.

O Lord, kum bah ya.

– Chuck Williamson

Read more about the history of this song as a plea for God’s intervention  from a generation of African Americans.

November 17, 2016

On Sunday, November 13, First United Presbyterian Church–our sister church in Center City–celebrated its 150th Anniversary with an uplifting service that remembered, rejoiced and rededicated. FUPC traces its roots to the black parishioners who left our church in 1866, after the Civil War. 

Below is a letter written by our Session and read by the Reverend Erika Funk during the service. After you’ve read the letter, you may want to visit our Facebook page and browse through the photo album from the day. Even if you aren’t a member of Facebook, you should be able to follow the link and view the photos.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

The pastors, officers and members of First Presbyterian Church Charlotte rejoice with the pastors, officers and members of First United Presbyterian Church on the occasion of your 150th anniversary. We recognize the significance of this milestone, and thank God for sustaining you as a congregation. You serve as a shining example of servant leaders in Christ—a beacon of grace, perseverance and warm welcome to those who pass through your doors and enter into worship with you. Despite the many challenges you and your forebears have faced over the past 150 years, you have stood strong in the Lord and in God’s mighty power. You have forged ahead in the face of uncertainty and difficulty. Thank you for being a witness to and for the love, the power and the faithfulness of God. God has been faithful—and so have you.

We are grateful for the growing bonds of friendship and the deepening relationships that are forming between our churches, especially in the past six or seven years. We are hopeful that we can foster deeper connections and strengthen the ties that connect our congregations to each other.

Even as we celebrate the faith, dedication and love that have sustained First United Presbyterian Church for 150 years, we acknowledge that there have been acts of racism, prejudice, indignity and indifference perpetrated by members of our congregation, acts that contributed to the separation of our two congregations. We recognize that the separation still exists in the present day. We apologize for all that we have done, and all that we have not done, that has given rise to and perpetuated division between our two communities of faith. We humbly pray that the Holy Spirit will lead us to true and complete reconciliation.

As you look toward the future God has for you in building God’s kingdom here in Charlotte, we commit ourselves to pray for you and we hope there will be many opportunities for us to work alongside you in your ministry, here in the city and beyond.

May God continue to richly bless and prosper your ministry and your entire congregation, and may you have many more years of worship, growth and service—all for the glory of God and the furtherance of the work of God in the world.

Grace and peace to you all.

– Brent A. Torstrick, Clerk of Session, First Presbyterian Church, Charlotte

The FUPC/FPC Partnership Ministry Team, a group of 16 people from both churches working toward reconciliation between our churches, wishes to thank everyone who participated in this historic event.

 

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