Observations from a full week starting with Martin Luther King Day

I not only had lots of appointments counseling and mentoring pastors and leaders during the week, I experienced lots of interesting emotions … surrounding Martin Luther King Day and activities following during the week.

** … I started the week attending the city-wide Martin Luther-King, Jr. prayer breakfast on Monday, held at the Vineyard Church of Central Illinois.  The speaker was the Champaign, IL,  Chief of Police Anthony Cobb. He gave a smart, stirring talk on how he feels as the chief over a police department that is predominantly White and how he feels as an African-American man who was reared here in Champaign-Urbana.  … As the chief, he clearly has a great deal of respect, pride and trust in the hard-working men and women on his force, most of whom are white.  Cobb went on to talk about his feelings of being a Christian African-American man in Champaign-Urbana, where, interestingly, he grew up.  Cobb was honest, transparent, articulate and funny.  I felt inspired.

** During the actual breakfast leading up to Chief Cobb’s talk, I sat by a friendly woman of color who suddenly told me she was mad.  “Mad?” I said.  “What are you mad about on this beautiful day?”  … “There are no White people here.”  … “Well,” I said smiling. “You’re talking with a White guy.” … She smiled back.  We both laughed.  “Oh I know,” she said.  “I’m not mad at you.”  … She explained that to her it felt largely like an African-American event, and she didn’t like that.  We then had a great conversation.  In the crowd of about 230, I’d say there were about 30 whites. Though I enjoyed the event, especially the chief’s talk, I felt resigned as I realized that in race relations in America even today we still have a long way to go.

** Then late on Friday evening Jennifer and I went to see the movie “Selma.”  Wow…  I highly recommend it.  The film chronicles the tumultuous three-month period in 1965, when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. led a dangerous campaign to secure equal voting rights in the face of violent opposition.  The epic march from Selma to Montgomery culminated in President Johnson signing the Voting Rights Act of 1965, one of the most significant victories for the civil rights movement. The film really gives you an incredible sense of the racial tensions in America, particularly the south, in the 1960s.  I felt sad as I watched this dynamic film.  (King is played by David Oyelowo, whose performance is outstanding.)

** Finally, just this morning (Saturday, January 24) I watched last Sunday’s message delivered at Willow Creek Community Church in Chicago by Pastor Bill Hybels, founding pastor of the church.  In view of Martin Luther King Day the day following, Hybels preached an incredibly thoughtful sermon based on the book of Esther.  Very creative, thoughtful and stirring — top to bottom.  Hybels is one of the great preachers in America. The preacher has fire in his belly!  Here is the link to his message. The link is of the entire service.  Hybels’ sermon picks up at about the 38 or 39-minute mark.  It’s just outstanding…  It filled me with hope.

… A week filled with inspiration, resignation, sadness and hope.  … A lot like life.

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