The Pegs Pop
Some more tentpegs popped this week. Last week's unity meeting between the black and white churches of Christ in the metro Detroit area were a wonderful first step and there are signs that the churches here meant what they said and will follow up with mutual aid, events, and love.
One opportunity to show our love came today. John R. Flowers, a giant of a man in the black fellowship and the father and mentor of many, many preachers and elders, passed away at age 98. Today was his funeral. The event was held at the Elmwood Park Church of Christ all the way down in Detroit about a mile and a half from Ford Stadium. I got up early and put on a suit and tie -- on a Saturday! -- found my way forty miles down I-75, down Gratiot towards the river, and found a place to park in a crowded lot. Inside, the pews were packed.
A word needs to be said about the African American brethren in metro Detroit. I haven't been to all of their congregations, but I could not be more impressed with each and every one I've visited. I have wondered how to describe them to people outside this area and four words keep coming back: wisdom, grace, warmth, dignity. A couple of months ago I traded pulpits with Dallas Walker, the esteemed preacher for the Wyoming Avenue Church of Christ. I am hear to openly attest this: there is no more grace-filled welcome anyplace in the world than you will find at Wyoming Avenue. Period. Everyone should travel there and see how you are wrapped in grace and love from the moment you walk in until long after you leave (you see, they will say nice things about you forever once they meet you!).
Why "wisdom"? Again, it is a danger to overstate situations or fall into stereotyping, but my experience has been that our black brothers and sisters know their Bibles far, far better than my white brethren (alas, I have had so little contact with Hispanic and Asian congregations I cannot bring them into this comparison). Not only do they have knowledge, they know how to apply it, hence, "wisdom."
At the funeral, at least thirty and maybe as many as forty individuals came up to me to thank me for coming or for speaking at last week's unity event. The warmth in their beautiful faces revealed their true hearts. I was, frankly, touched and deeply encouraged.
Some might lampoon the dignity and formality of their funeral services and worship services, but I would caution you: when a people has been stripped of dignity, formality, ceremony, and recognition for centuries it is an sweet and beautiful thing to see that these dear children of God know they are made in His image, that they are loved by Him, and that their lives mean something. While many of my white brethren -- including me -- seem to rush away from formality and dress down for Sundays, I think there is something healing in seeing the reverence and esteem for the Holy in black churches.
When the minister called to tell me details about the upcoming service he referred to a "Homegoing Ceremony." I apologized to him for my ignorance and told him I didn't know what that was. "Brother Mead," he said, "that is what we call a funeral when the one who passed is a child of God." How wonderful! During the Homegoing Ceremony nine or ten preachers preached and each one who referred to resurrection day called it "Gettin' up morning."
I have much to learn from these, my precious brothers and sisters. I hear tentpegs popping. Brother John R. Flowers has pulled his tentpegs up and moved on to glory. Those of us who remain behind are pulling up deeply driven pegs so that we can move our tents closer to each other.
God give us the courage to keep moving toward Him and each other.