MLK b-day

A message from Nancy S. Taylor, Senior Minister of Old South Church in Boston:

Today would be the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King’s 90th birthday. To honor the day and to honor the man – truly among the great prophets of Christianity and of America – Old South Church is airing his sermons and speeches all day, both out of doors onto Boylston Street where every single passerby cannot but hear his voice, and within the Sanctuary, where all who enter for respite or prayer, to wonder and wander, will be held captive by King’s remarkable voice, intonation and message.

This location at the Hub of the Hub of the Universe, this special platform for ministry, will proclaim from sidewalk and sanctuary: Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream. In posters that accompany our broadcasting of King’s sermons and speeches we ask the question: How can you take up the cause? May this be your question today and tomorrow and in all of your tomorrows.

Every year on the anniversary of Dr. King’s birthday, I make it a practice to read or re-read at least one of his speeches, sermons, or letters. He was a remarkable intellect, as well as a moral giant.

Here are some options for you to consider: The Old South Gospel Choir is performing at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Breakfast in Boston again this year. This is the nation’s longest-running, and Boston’s premier event, dedicated to honoring the legacy of Dr. King. Senior Deacon Ralph Watson will be running an MLK Day Mobile Soup Kitchen. Come to the church at 10:30am, help prepare a warm, home cooked meal, pack it up and take to the streets to share it with our unhoused neighbors for whom the streets of Copley Square are home.

Did you know that the young Martin Luther King, while a student in Boston, sometimes worshipped with us? He listened to the preaching of our 18th Senior Minister, Dr. Frederick Meek, took notes of Meek’s sermons and fashioned some of his own sermons with reference to Dr. Meek’s. These references are noted in the King Papers. Did you know Coretta Scott once sang in our sanctuary with a Boston University Chorus?

How then, can you and I fail to rise to the dream he painted for us, the United States he imagined for us, the country he died trying make live up to the true meaning of our creed?

King did his work. Now it’s our turn. Let’s get on with it.


Old South pride

Here is a message from John Edgerton, the associate minister at Old South Church.

This is where I was baptized. This is where Dominick and I said our wedding vows. This will always be my spiritual home, and I couldn’t be more proud of the people, like John, who create this community of faith.

Hello beloved Old South,

I’m writing to let you know that earlier today I was arrested in Washington D.C. as a part of an act of civil disobedience resisting a repeal of the Affordable Care Act. Clergy from many faiths, health care professionals, and people who have their insurance through the Affordable Care Act came together for a peaceful, disciplined, non-violent act of resistance.

I want to give an account of why I did this, because I am indeed accountable to you as one of your ministers. I do a great deal of work to reform the law without resorting to civil disobedience. So why engage in civil disobedience now?

First, because members of Old South stand to be hurt. Members of our church may lose their health insurance, or have pre-existing conditions once again serve as a basis for denying them health coverage. To simply roll back the Affordable Care Act, without a careful plan for how to replace its life-saving protections, is staggeringly irresponsible. Members of our church will be hurt. Our families will be hurt. Our children will be hurt. When I joined Old South church I promised to resist oppression and evil, today’s action is in keeping with that promise.

Second, I took this action because I was invited to do so. We are living in extraordinary and dangerous and uncertain and frightening days. People who I care about asked me to stand with them in fighting to protect their health care, so I said yes. I do not believe this is the time to worry over whether I can take on all the possible fights facing us. There will be many times in the coming months when people of faith are called to stand with the vulnerable. And when the vulnerable call us to stand with them, theirs is the voice of Jesus Christ bidding us to follow Him.

Finally, I took this action because I have hope that it will make a difference. As a Christian, I believe that people who have made a mistake can change. I believe that the past does not dictate the future. I believe disciplined and loving non-violent action can change people’s hearts. I believe that Congress may still choose to do the right thing and find political compromise that will allow the critical life-saving protections of the ACA to remain in place. This was an act of hope, grounded in love.

I would like to ask a few things of you.

First, I ask for your prayers. I am not sure at what time I will be released from jail, and I covet your prayers.

Second, if you would like to be supportive of what I’ve done, please come to the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization meeting on Thursday at Bethel AME at 6:30pm. RSVP to me if you can make it. We are organizing on a state level to protect health care and your presence will help ensure our state officials do everything in their power to protect our health care. We have a strategy to help protect health care. Today’s civil disobedience is part of it. Thursday’s GBIO action is a part of it. Scripture calls us to be wise as serpents and as innocent as doves. Thursday’s action will help us shine up our scales on issues of health care, criminal justice reform, and affordable housing.

Lastly, if you disagree with what I have done, please write to me and tell me why. I promise I will read it carefully, and write you a thoughtful and considered and personal reply. Our congregational polity does not demand that we agree on everything, but it does call for us to remain in relationship across all our differences. Our political environment is so toxic right now that political disagreement can seem certain to break relationship. I commit to doing what I can to behave differently, to try to live up to the scriptural admonition that “if it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with all people.”

I honestly do believe that we are living in remarkable times, times when the moral voice of the church is needed more than ever. If in this action I have erred, I hope that I have erred on the side of foolhardy love.

It is my honor and privilege to be yours,

John Edgerton
Associate Minister
The Old South Church in Boston

the golden corral

Last week we visited Dominick’s grandparents, Emory and Esther, in Georgia. They recently learned that Emory has cancer. They were meeting with their doctor to get the scan results (to see how far it had spread), and to discuss treatment options (if any were viable).

Emory is a man of few words. He likes life’s simple things, and most of his conversations are about just that. He told us a wonderful story about seeing their neighbors’ horses in the night:

“I went out over there where the ground dips and I didn’t make a noise. Then I heard clop-clop, clop-clop, clop-clop.” (He gestured a slow, gentle rhythm for the horses’ hooves.) “And I looked and looked and finally I could see just the bare outline of two heads looking right at me. So they ran over the whole field in the pitch dark to come see me, because they knew I usually gave them carrots.”

Esther is much more talkative. She’s a classic southern lady. I use that word, ‘lady,’ very deliberately. Not everyone has the right manners to merit the word. She praises God at every opportunity. This is what complete thankfulness looks like:

“When we married, I asked God to give us just 10 years, and now He’s given us nearly 15 wonderful years together. Isn’t that amazing?”

Yes, it sure is.

Well, they found Emory has stage 2 cancer, and he started chemotherapy that same day. Emory sat in a big recliner, and his only complaint was boredom. Afterwards, he said he wanted lunch at the Golden Corral. (This is a buffet restaurant with an abundance of fried food – the Ponderosa of the South. We’d successfully dodged eating there before, but this time we heartily agreed. We’d go wherever Emory wanted to go.)

During lunch, Dominick told Emory his new favorite joke:

Why don’t you ever see elephants hiding in trees?
Because they’re really good at it!

bad religion

Recently, an Arizona preacher called for an “AIDS-free Xmas.” Well, that sounds like an excellent mission. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to work together to cure AIDS? What would it take to tackle this global health problem in a collaborative and effective way? What can we do as christians to support this cause? Unfortunately, that wasn’t the direction he was going. He explained that the surest way to this end is to kill LGBT people.

It disgusts me that people are preaching genocide.

It frightens me that people are listening.

It saddens me that people think this is christian faith.

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I heard about this story in a sermon by Rev. Nancy S. Taylor. (You can hear it here). She argued that there’s a lot of bad religion out there, using media as a megaphone to spread hateful propaganda. Some people might say that the cure for bad religion is no religion, but (1) that’s never going to happen, and (2) it’s not the answer. Remember: Isaiah 40:3-9.

A voice cries out: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” A voice says, “Cry out!” And I said, “What shall I cry?” All people are grass, their constancy is like the flower of the field.The grass withers, the flower fades, when the breath of the Lord blows upon it; surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our God will stand forever. Get you up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good tidings; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings, lift it up, do not fear; say to the cities of Judah, “Here is your God!”

We need to spread the good news of the gospel. We need to preach love, and preach it loud. We need to cry out. As Rev. Taylor puts it, “People think christians are judgmental and boring. Shame on us for not telling them otherwise.” She challenged us each to tell 10 people about our faith. Hopefully, by writing this, I’ve begun at least one conversation.