December 5, 2023

From the Rector…

Sixty-eight years ago today, about 5,000 people gathered at Holt Street Baptist Church to begin a movement that changed the course of history—the Montgomery Bus Boycott. The catalyst for the movement was a woman who was tired—tired after a long day of work, tired of being treated with little respect, tired of being a second-class citizen. I don’t think Rosa Parks woke up the morning of December 1, 1955 thinking she was going to start a movement, but within four days, her refusal to give up her seat on a bus led to thousands of people giving up their seats on the bus that cost them jobs, time, and money. They sacrificed to make a difference in the face of injustice. Though they grew tired, they kept walking and defying the structures of power that were determined to maintain a systemic evil we know today as racism.

It is estimated that the bus company lost about $3000 per day of the boycott. The boycott lasted 54 weeks—381 days—that is a loss of $1,143,000 in total. As David Banner said at the 68th Celebration, it was enough to buy a bus. Banner’s words were prophetic and challenging. He called on those gathered to celebrate the historic occasion to do something—to not simply accept the comforts of the status quo. He challenged them to “buy a bus” and find someone to “drive the bus”. 

Banner was not alone in challenging us. The Rev. E. Dewey Smith preached up a storm that reminded us we cannot live in this world as individuals looking out only for ourselves. That we have become to centered on the “I” and the path forward requires a focus on the “us”. He then led The Lord’s Prayer in which he emphasized all the plural pronouns beginning with:

OUR Father,

Who art in Heaven

Hallowed by the name.

Thy kingdom come, thy will be done,

On earth as it is in Heaven.

Give US this day OUR daily bread.

And forgive US OUR trespasses,

As WE forgive each other.

And lead US not into temptation

But deliver US from evil.

For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory

Forever and ever. Amen.

It was a simple and effective reminder that instead of simply seeking and acting on our own desires, we are called to sacrifice for one another—to consider all not just self.

As I listened to Rev. Smith and Mr. Banner and the other speakers last night at Holt Street, I was struck by the fact that they weren’t calling out any particular person as their hero or shero. They mentioned name after name of those who were well known for their activism efforts as well as those in the background who supported the efforts of the boycott yet did not receive the same fanfare. Instead of holding up particular people, they held up a mirror—empowering everyone in that room to continue the fight for justice. It was the same thing they did in 1955 and again in 1965. Sure there are definite leaders of the Civil Rights Movement that history points too, but those leaders shared a vision and galvanized a people to find their own power and change the world.

That is the exact same pattern Jesus and the early church followed to establish a witness and a movement that changed the course of history. It was built on telling Good News and refusing to allow others to dictate the terms of a life that required exclusion of the other—exclusion of the Christ-follower. It was built on the empowerment of others. We know the story of those who would hear good news and be stirred to change the world. I pray we still have the grace to celebrate that victory for our neighbors and march beside them as they continue to do justice, seek mercy, and walk humbly with OUR God.

Light and Life,