My Favorite Book


The Pastor’s Guidebook: A Manual for Special Occasions

Out of the four books I’ve had published, I think this one is my favorite.  It is the companion to “The Pastor’s Guidebook: A Manual for Worship.”  I learned a lot about the process of publication before this second volume was written.  The 20 chapters are listed below.  You can see it’s useful for laity who need to give a devotional.  For instance, if you are asked to give a short talk for July 4 or any citizenship occasion, this book and this chapter will help.  For any common subject in church life, from missions to stewardship to Mother’s Day, this book will be useful.  It can be ordered at Amazon or you can get an autographed copy from me.  $20 includes shipping.


  • New Year’s Eve (Watch Night)/New Year’s Day
  • Mother’s Day/Father’s Day
  • Independence Day
  • Labor Day
  • Thanksgiving

Holy Days

  • Advent/Christmas
  • Lent/Ash Wednesday
  • Holy Week/Palm Sunday
  • Maundy Thursday
  • Good Friday
  • Easter
  • Pentecost
  • All Saints’ Eve/All Saints’ Day

Days for Special Emphasis

  • Race Relations Day
  • Mission Emphasis
  • Graduate Recognition Service
  • World Hunger Day
  • Homecoming
  • Day of Prayer for World Peace
  • Stewardship Emphasis
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The Pastor’s Guidebook: A Manual for Worship


Stubbornly, I’ve resisted promoting or even talking about the two worship manuals I wrote three decades ago.  I wanted people to know about and purchase my most recent book, Overcoming Adolescence.  The strange thing is that The Pastor’s Guidebook:  A Manual for Worship still sells far more copies without me ever mentioning it.

I am breaking my silence.

I am proud of this book.  Not everyone needs a copy, but every seminarian or pastor should have a book like this.  If you are curious at all about why ministers do what they do during worship, this volume is a good baseline to answer such questions.  I wrote it out of necessity, because nothing like this existed in Baptist life–something that explained why we did what we did in worship.  Most of us just mimicked what our pastor had done.  In five years of seminary, I never had a course in worship.  One day, in our preaching class, the professor talked about worship.  That’s embarrassing but true.

All my books can be bought on Amazon.  If you want me to sign one and send it to you, send me $20.

If you own one and would be willing to write a review on Amazon, that would be a kindness and an act of friendship.

The Pastor’s Guidebook: A Manual for Worship, Broadman, 1984 (Over 25,000 copies sold…)

Each chapter includes brief Biblical, theological and historical rationale for the baseline corporate worship experiences of congregations:

  • Lord’s Day Worship
  • Baptism
  • Lord’s Supper
  • Christian Marriage Ceremony
  • Funeral
  • Parent-Child Dedication
  • Other Dedication/Installation Services
  • Ordination
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Guest Column, Brenda Kneece, Executive Minister, South Carolina Christian Action Council

There is no Confederate Flag
flying at the Peoples’ House in SC.

The South Carolina Christian Action Council was not the first, nor was
it the only voice calling for the removal of the Confederate Flag.

The Council’s first public statement asking South Carolina to take the Confederate Flag off the State House Dome and out of the Legislative Chambers was made in 1986.

Under the leadership of then Executive Minister, Dr. Wayne Bryan, the Council, ran a full page ad in the State Newspaper with 698 signatures of Religious Leaders representing many faiths calling for the removal of the Flag and announcing a silent witness for January 21, 1997.

On that day, the Council organized the circling of Carolina Plaza, the Legislature’s temporary location, by more than 750 people in a silent
vigil of love and prayer for the convened State Legislature.

The Council, again led by Dr. Bryan, and
Julia Sibley, Director of the Council’s
Sabbath of Support (a ministry formed in response to the rash of churches burned in the mid-1990s) worked with the SC NAACP, the Urban League, the Chamber of Commerce, many other entities and individuals to plan and implement the largest protest march in the
history of SC.

My tenure as Council Executive Minister began on December 1, 1999, so I, too was involved. However the months of work prior to the march were done by Wayne, Julia, and others.

King Day at the Dome 2000: A Rally for Unity.

What a day that was. Thousands and thousands lined up in front of Zion Baptist Church on Washington Street in Columbia after a great Unity Prayer Service. Thousands more joined as we marched up Washington and turned onto Main. Conservative estimates of the crowd begin at 40,000 with top figures reaching 60,000.

That session the Legislature reached a compromise taking the Flag off the Dome and out of the Chambers. A compromise that relocated it at the juncture of Main and Gervais at one of the many monuments to the Confederacy on the State House Grounds. Even though a beautiful and moving monument to African Americans came out of that Compromise, the Council and many others were not happy.

Fifteen more Martin Luther King Jr Days came and went; and we marched. The flag was not always the focus. We called for funding for a high quality education for all our children, for access to quality and affordable healthcare for all, for a moral budget and taxation policy, and other just causes. Yet, always, always that Flag hung in each speakers’ face and at the backs of those raising their collective voice for justice.

Until the terrible, awful happened. The massacre of the Charleston 9. The senseless and hate-filled killing of faithful folks, who welcomed a stranger. Ministers and mothers and sisters and brothers and fathers and cousins; a librarian, a coach, a Senator; the young and the old. Nine killed and others injured because a person, misguided at best and with evil intent, did the worst “to start a race war.” His youth adds to our sadness.

It seemed all of Charleston and most of South Carolina were drawn together in grief. Rather than riots, prayer circles filled the streets. Tears were shed and eyes even now grow wet. Thirteen hours after the violence in a sister church just blocks from Mother Emanuel, we gathered as one. African Methodist Episcopal Bishops and Presiding Elders, leading political servants, the faithful, we were one and each a member of the wounded community. And in that first of what would become many unity services, grace showed us God’s broken and loving heart. And we knew we were not alone.

Then the unimaginable, amazing happened. The most grieved, family members of those slain, less than 48 hours later faced that one alleged to be the evil doer in court and spoke words of forgiveness.

Forgiveness. A witness that even today causes me to shake my head in wonder. Again, not what we could have expected. Rather an even better way.

A few days later, we watched as the body of the Rev. Senator Pinckney was carried by wagon onto the State House grounds. We recognized and felt the injustice, the long years of violent hurt, the centuries of prejudice, the disrespect, the disenfranchisement represented by
Flag when it remained at full mast even as the Flags of the U.S.A. and S.C. both flew at half-mast.

The people demanded that the Flag come down. The Governor said it was time for the Flag to come down. Our Legislators agreed that the Flag would come down. And it came down. Finally.


Not everyone is happy. Some–like the older brother in Jesus’ parable of the Faithful Father–cannot rejoice because they feel slighted, they feel their ancestors have been slighted. As has been said, perception is reality.

So, in reality, there is no Finally. Just more work to be done. Neighbor recognizing neighbor. One on one. Hellos and conversations.

We have to listen, to hear each others’ stories. To hear each others’ pain. To talk honestly about privilege and prejudice. To examine our own hearts and habits. I have to accept that my whiteness gives me societal privilege. I must recognize this and live intentionally so that I do not perpetuate the injustices that are the mirrored realities when the majority is unaware of the privilege inherent with being the majority with long-standing power.

Look at the facts of the world. You see a continual and progressive triumph of the right. I do not pretend to understand the moral universe, the arc is a long one, my eye reaches but little ways. I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by the experience of sight; I can divine it by conscience. But from what I see I am sure it bends towards justice.

Things refuse to be mismanaged long. Jefferson trembled when he thought of slavery and remembered that God is just. Ere long all America will tremble.

–Theodore Parker, Unitarian minister, born in 1810, called for the abolition of slavery. In 1853 a collection of “Ten Sermons of Religion” by Parker was published and the third sermon titled “Of Justice and the Conscience” included figurative language about the arc of the moral universe.

The Council–as are others–will continue to work, to offer avenues of involvement in this movement toward Racial Justice and Healing.

Come, go on this journey to healing and justice with us. And if not with us, with others. As the families of the Nine, and their church continue to show us there is a better way.

Brenda Kneece, Executive Minister, South Carolina Christian Action Council

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Washington, D.C.: The Fifth Leg: July 2015

My grandson Lake missed his class trip to Washington D.C. this school year because he broke his knee playing soccer the day before the trip. That suited him just fine, but I was not a happy granddad. I think kids need to go to the Capital. I took my daughters and I wanted Lake to have the experience.

I gave him a list of options and told him to pick two:

1. Bureau of Engraving and Printing
2. Holocaust Memorial Museum
3. International Spy Museum
4. Library of Congress
5. Mt. Vernon
6. National Air and Space Museum
7. National Museum of the American Indian
8. Newseum
9. Smithsonian Museum of Natural History
10. Supreme Court Building
11. Tombs of the Unknown Soldiers
12. Trolley Tour or Duck Tour
13. US Capitol
14. White House tour

He picked the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History (the Hope Diamond, dinosaurs, etc.) and the National Air and Space Museum. We also took a moonlight tour of the primary Washington D.C. monuments, a great decision. We took the “Old Town Trolley Tour,” and we highly recommend it. We rode past some sites, such as the Supreme Court, the Jefferson Memorial and the Capitol, but we stopped and spent time at the Lincoln Memorial and the Vietnam Memorial. The trolley tour took three hours and was awesome for all ages. Our guide became emotional talking about the last inauguration with 800,000 gathered for the peaceful passing of power from one Head of State to another. Not many countries in the world do that, but we do. I’m proud to be an American. Some want their state to secede when the wrong party wins, or they want to turn their backs on our great democratic nation when their candidate loses. Not me. I’ve suffered through bad Presidents and benefited from the efforts of good Presidents. And, since I’m not God, I am continually surprised at some of the good done by politicians with whom I disagree and vice versa.

Our hotel, the W, was as close as you can get to the White House and the Washington Monument. Lake even took his soccer ball out to the Ellipse one afternoon and kicked it around while I sat on the ground nearby, leaning against a tree, and smoked a cigar.

We drove home to Columbia the next day and were happy to be back. My attitude is almost always that I’m glad to go and I’m glad to get home. Right now, I really don’t want to go much farther than West Columbia. It’s good to be with Sally. We went out last night for hamburgers and cooked hot dogs for lunch today, in honor of National Hot Dog Day.

The End

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New York City: The Fourth Leg: July 2015

My grandson Lake, age 14, wasn’t so sure about going to New York City. He likes his familiar world of friends, soccer, soccer, and more soccer. One of my theories of childrearing is that adults are supposed to be smarter than kids. So far, so good.

Our itinerary called for us to come home from Boston to New York City to Washington, D.C. to Columbia, SC. Researching soccer venues for the relevant dates, I discovered that the New York Red Bulls were playing the New England Revolution in Harrison, New Jersey, a short subway ride from Times Square. So I bought the three of us, Jenna, Lake and me, tickets to the game. I didn’t care much about the game, except that I like most sports, but the decision gave Lake some buy-in to this leg of our trip. The journey to the stadium required a subway ride, which was also part of my agenda for a New York experience, so win-win.

The first 15 minutes in New York City were hairy. Jenna was driving and the traffic was, well, New York City traffic. Our hotel was near Times Square. After checking in, we walked there to catch the subway, and Lake was bowled over. Who wouldn’t be? A cowboy wearing a guitar and a jockey strap. Women wearing only body paint. Bright lights. Big city. Sensory overload. Tens of thousands of people.

We ate a very late lunch at Hard Rock Café which made Jenna happy. This was, after all, her vacation, too. Then, we had to catch a subway. The game was in New Jersey.

The home team won the game, but I learned Lake was pulling for the Revolution. Jenna and I didn’t care.

The next day we went to the observatory on the 86th floor of the Empire State Building. Good way to see the city. We never made it to Central Park or the Statue of Liberty, for example, but we could had a panorama view of the entire city from that height.

We bought tickets to see the Lion King. The challenge had been which Broadway play would appeal to a 14-year-old boy. Lake liked it. I’m the one who slept through the first act.

In New York City, just walking down the street is a hoot. We went into soccer shops, cigar stores, shoe stores and, best of all, a random retailer that sold magnificent rock specimens—up to half a million dollars for a rock—and it wasn’t even a diamond. Beautiful, but I didn’t have that much money on me, so we just looked. We had supper and ate sushi with friends Chris and Bryan. We discovered Insomnia Cookies.

I think Lake will go back to New York City. Mission accomplished.

Tomorrow: Washington, D. C. The Fifth Leg of my summer excursions

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Boston: The Third Leg: July 2015

“Every teenager needs an adult friend.” That was a theme of Young Life, an organization that made a huge difference in my young adolescent life. Most kids get a pair of parents. Fortunately, both of mine were great. For good or ill, parents are the primary models for a young person’s life. Other adults come and go—teachers, coaches, youth ministers, even aunts and uncles. Few rise to the level of being close enough to teenagers to be major influences in their lives. One of the reasons gangs emerge is to fill the gap when there are no good adults stepping up to befriend teens during those turbulent years. I look back on my teenage years and am grateful for Jerry and Jane Howington and Uncle Tom and Aunt Mildred Hipps, four important adult friends and models for me.

During July, my oldest daughter Jenna and I drove her son Lake, my grandson, to Framingham (near Boston), Massachusetts, so he could spend a few days with his Aunt Julie and Uncle Tom, both of whom he adores. Sally did not go with us because, when Julie and Tom settled in Massachusetts, we decided to split our trips up so we would have more “touches” with them than if we always traveled there together. That’s worked out nicely. Also, on this trip, Jenna’s husband Thorne decided to fly up and spend a few days with us on the Boston portion of our adventure along the Northeast corridor.

Cooking and hanging out are generally the primary agenda when with Julie and Tom. On the trip up, Lake’s discovered the U.S. men’s soccer team was to play Haiti at Gillette Stadium (where the Patriots play) in Foxboro. Turned out to be a double header so we also saw Panama and Honduras, too. We ate a fine meal at the huge shopping mall attached to the stadium.

The next day, Lake and Julie made blueberry pancakes for breakfast. For dinner, Tom taught Lake how to shuck corn and Lake did it willingly. We went to the grocery store. How’s that for entertainment?

Board games are a big deal when Lake is with his aunt and uncle: Ticket to Ride and Apples to Apples.

Lake likes their cats: Athena and Magneto. Lake drives them nuts with the red laser pointer which the animals are glad to chase endlessly.

Hanging out.

The car trip (I always rent a car for long distances) from Columbia, SC to Framingham, MA takes 17 hours, driving through nine states (SC, NC, VA, MD, PA, WV, NY, CT, and MA) and the Shenandoah Valley. I think it was nine states and I’m sure it was the Shenandoah Valley. And I’m sure it was 17 hours. One way. Jenna and I split the driving.

Next Leg: New York City

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Turkey: The Second Leg: June 2015


Turkey was my Big Trip this summer. I had been invited to be part of an Interfaith Friendship Tour sponsored by the Atlantic Institute, a coalition of Turkish citizens and Turkish expatriates here in America who wants the world to understand their country, their culture, and their faith.

Many Americans have voiced dissatisfaction with Islamic moderates, even denying they exist, a kind of Every-Muslim-Is-a-Terrorist mentality. “Why don’t moderate Muslims speak up?” they ask.

Answer: They do!

The trip I took with a half-dozen other educators and academics was an attempt to get the word out that Muslim men and women are spread across the theological spectrum from fundamentalist to liberal, just as Christians are. We enjoyed an introductory week, learning about the geography and people of Turkey, a predominantly Muslim country. For those of us who are Americans, the Turkish people contradict every stereotype. Turkey, technically, is a secular nation, not Islamic. That means Christians can meet to worship, as can Buddhists, Jews and Muslims. The Big Sin in Turkey is not to be Turkish.

That’s a sweeping statement that needs a great deal of nuancing. I walked at will through the streets of Istanbul and visited a Protestant church that worshipped freely. We (our small group) enjoyed dinner in the home of a Turkish family who were conservative, with the wife wearing a headscarf and seemingly obedient to her husband. We also dined with a family that was more moderate theologically. The wife wore modern clothes with no headscarf and functioned with equal status in the home and in conversation with her husband and guests. It is a diverse culture.

That’s consistent with what I learned prior to this trip. We were asked to read several books about the history of Turkey, and I did. If people want to know about moderate Muslims, they can turn of the TV and pick up a book such as Islam without Extremes by Mustafa Akyol. Islam has the same problems that Christianity has in that various parties or denominations interpret the holy writings differently. Then others come along and interpret the interpretations differently. Yikes.

Also, in getting to know men and women of other faiths, especially Islam, I am aware that not everyone is equally pious or diligent in the practice of their traditions. Some Christians go to church twice a year, Christmas and Easter, and some go three or four times each week. Muslim folks are no different.

Certainly, in a week’s time (this was my third trip to Turkey), I have not become an expert on Turkish culture, politics, or faith. But I do know that when you paint entire regions of the globe with one color and say “they” are all the same, you display ignorance rather than intelligence.

In fact, a few friends were concerned about me going to a predominantly Muslim country. While I was in Turkey, roaming around safely, an American was murdering Christians in Charleston, South Carolina.

Over and over and over, I repeat the words of the prophets, of angels, and of Jesus: Fear not.

So, I went to Turkey and loved it. Istanbul is 16,000,000 people, vibrant, bustling, full of interesting places and people. I’m glad I went. I had a Turkish bath. I ate Turkish Delight, cheese, olives, and dates. I drank Turkish tea.

Having been to Europe many times, it’s easy to tire of castles and cathedrals. Turkey is a different culture and landscape altogether. Spice market. Giant bazaar.. Fairy chimneys and mushroom shaped rocks. Underground houses. Underground churches. A real harem at the palace. Never saw that in Brussels. We visited mosques, churches and a Jewish synagogue.

As a group, we went to Ephesus, which plays an important part in the New Testament. In Cappadocia, we visited hermitages where monks separated themselves from the world. We flew in a hot air balloon. We learned history. We visited schools. We were introduced to the Hizmet (or Gulen) Movement. The Atlantic Institute is part of this larger coalition whose purpose seems to be to promote education, interfaith dialogue and health and human services.

The group of half-dozen South Carolinians, ourselves pretty diverse, bonded during the trip and enjoyed each other’s company. And we were really impressed by Turkey.


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Scotland: The First Leg: June 2015


Pastries in St. Andrews Scotland

An Anglophile is a person who likes England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales. I am an Anglophile   I’ve been lucky enough to fly to the British Isles at least a half-dozen times, staying as long as six weeks on one occasion. I return there whenever I can scrape together the money and an excuse.

The first international trip I took (that was not a group tour) was to London. We speak, more or less, the same language! My wife Sally and I did all the touristy things—Hampton Court, high tea at Harrods’s, pubs. My friend Fuzzy, who also made the trip, and I stood in a queue for three hours to get into Wimbledon. When we got to the entrance, we paid four pounds (six dollars) and fifteen minutes later, we were at Centre Court watching Chris Evert. In America, we would have been required to pay $2000 for the privilege of buying a ticket, then another $2000 for the ticket, and the seat would have been in the nose bleed section.

I love England and their values, their civility. I love their history which is, after all, our own history, up to a point—July 4,1776 precisely. I love their weather, at least when I’ve been there, which has never been in the dead of winter. I love their accents. I love the vistas and the quaint villages. I love their public transportation. I love their local shops. I love their pastries and cheeses. I’ve even been known to enjoy their peculiar peat-smoked whiskey.

My travels there included a six-week exchange with the Rev. Dr. Robin Routledge, a Baptist pastor in South Yorkshire. He and his family came to Columbia, SC, lived in our house, drove our car, and preached for Greenlawn Baptist Church for six weeks. We lived in his house, drove his car, and I preached at his church for six weeks. Jenna was about 17 and Julie age 9. We loved the experience.

Twice, I went to a continuing education conference at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland. Great weeks. Sally and Julie were with me for those trips. St. Andrews is the loveliest town in the world. One day, the director of the school informed us, “The Old Course will be open for strollers after dinner.” Can you imagine the Augusta National ever opening its hallowed gates to its neighbors so they could wander around the fairways? For free? Not in my lifetime.

For our thirtieth anniversary, Sally and I scheduled a week in Ireland. Randy and Diana Wright invited themselves to go with us and we gladly said, “Yes.” After all, it was our thirtieth anniversary, not our first.

Another year, Randy and I spent a week on the Isle of Iona, Scotland, for a retreat at one of the world’s thin places. A thin place is a location that seems to provide easier access to God, with not so thick a barrier, not as much stuff getting in the way between heaven and earth.

Peter May is a fine Scottish author who has written three mysteries (The Blackhouse, The Lewis Man and The Chessmen) about the Outer Hebrides, Scotland’s most westerly islands. His portrait of these remote, windswept, wet, dark islands fascinated me. I’d never been beyond the Inner Hebrides (Heh-breh-dees). I needed to be in Turkey this summer, and a bit of investigation showed it only cost $300 round-trip from Istanbul to Edinburgh. I bought the ticket and traveled solo on this portion of the trip.

The Outer Hebrides requires a lengthy ferry ride from Ullapool on the lonely northwestern coast of Scotland, a land of one-lane roads where sheep have the right of way. If two cars meet, one of them must pull to the side of the path so the other can pass. At the Summer Isles Hotel in Achiltibuie (a four star Bed and Breakfast isolated twenty-one miles from anywhere) I stayed in the room where Charlie Chaplain routinely vacationed. Because of the hotel’s isolation, it turned out to be supper, bed, and breakfast, which was fine since the dinner was six courses and exquisite, and the dining area overlooked a loch and small islands.

In the small restaurant, it was hard not to overhear the conversations of the other patrons, ten total, including a pair of newlyweds and an elderly couple. Later, I confirmed with the proprietor that the older woman has Alzheimer’s and her husband continues the tradition of bringing her to this beautiful retreat where they have been vacationing for decades.

The bookends of marriage.

Great food. Even breakfast was fine—haddock and poached egg over spinach with English style toast, coffee, etc. No haggis.

My stay on the island of Harris in the town of Stornoway was all I hoped it would be and shorter than I hoped it would be. The land tends toward bleak and spare, unlike the town itself which could easily be in a festive New England setting. I drove to see the Callanish Stones, another thin place and similar to Stonehenge, though not as popular because of its seclusion.

One of the reasons I travel is to get a feel for size. The distance between the Hebrides islands meant the ferry schedules were not going to allow me to lollygag as long as I wanted to, so I headed back to the mainland.

Found my way to St. Andrews. Ate cheese (from I. J. Mellis) and pastries (from Fisher and Donaldson). Visited Scone Palace and, of course, had a scone. Peacocks in the garden. Took a tour of a distillery that produces the rare Glenturret single malt Scotch.  Got off a secondary road and found a small village with a Pictish Stone–a Celtic Cross with the crucifixion on one side and creation on the other side.


End of the first leg of my summer excursion. Second Leg was Turkey.

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I Am a Patriot!

Originally posted on Where the Pavement Ends:


I love the United States of America.  We live in a great country.  I am not objective about our nation any more than I am objective about my mother and dad.  I have visited other countries, and each has assets and liabilities, as does ours.  But I wouldn’t trade my country for anybody else’s any more than I would trade my family for your family.  I am a loyal and faithful American.  I vote.  I serve as a Poll Manager.  I serve on juries without complaining when I am asked to do so.  I pay taxes and am glad to do so.  I enjoy the benefits of being an American and do not resent the price of being a dues paying citizen.


There are only about a half-dozen states I have not visited, including Hawaii and Alaska.  The others are in the Northwest.  I hope to remedy those travel…

View original 541 more words

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Guest Blog: Spiritually Speaking by Rev. John F. Hudson

A pastor friend of mine in Sherborn, Massachusetts, wrote this column for his church newsletter.  It is one of many compassionate posts I have read over the past few weeks.  We have been overwhelmed by news that has been both horrible and wonderful.  Lots of opinions, some more helpful than others.  This is a good one. Marion

“If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die?” –“The Merchant of Venice”, William Shakespeare, 1605

Strange days in our nation.

New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow may have best described the intense swirl of conflicting feelings and emotions millions of Americans experienced in the past two weeks.  He writes: “[It]…was a bit surreal. As America was celebrating the victory of marriage equality at the Supreme Court, it was also mourning [nine] black people in South Carolina murdered by a white supremacist.” These are awe-filled and awful days.  One day our nation takes a historic step towards full inclusion.  Another day, in bloodshed and heartbreak, we remember how far we still have to go.

Millions of our fellow Americans empowered with the legal right to marry: to love and to make families. Millions of our fellow Americans still targeted for hatred and bias and violence.  The “other” welcomed in. The “other” cut down.  It makes me weep and laugh, celebrate and grieve, proud to be an American and ashamed to be an American. In July 4th’s shadow, these events remind us that we have come a long way in 239 years, but my goodness: we’ve yet got such a long, long way to go too.

When oh when will we as a people see the full dignity and worth of all the people? All the people? All of our neighbors and friends, every last one? All of the men and women and children with whom share this home, the United States of America?  Some argue that through the rule of law we’ll finally get to the promised land and they point to the Supreme Court’s ruling as proof of this power. Others say we are already there. Look: we have an African-American President.  Look: folks of different sexual orientations are very out and visible in our culture and country.

True and yet….

Laws are not enough. The human heart cannot be changed through a legislative act or court decision. Authentic inclusion cannot be mandated or forced. We can post rainbow flags all we want on Facebook or Twitter but such public posturing risks little or nothing. The only truth which finally redeems is our shared humanity and our ability to embrace this reality. That we all bleed if we are pricked.  We all weep when a loved one dies.  We all aspire to love another special person and be loved in return and live in peace.  Until we recognize this flesh and blood connection to the person we may still label as “the other”, nothing will change.

As Atticus Finch says to his daughter Scout, in Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird”, “…if you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view […] until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”  Until we who are white have the courage to face how hard life is for so many people of color in our land, things won’t change.  Until we who are straight have the moral imagination to understand what it is like to have your essence as a child of God called “sinful” and “unnatural”, nothing will change.  Until we who are privileged by virtue of the class we are born into or the zip code we call home, until we confront the pain of poverty and being poor, nothing will change.

Finally, we are all human, all children of God, all.

Before we are a color, or a gender, or an orientation, or a class, or a race, or a religion, or a nationality, we are all human.  Get that and the world can change, absolutely.  Miss that and the world will continue on as it is.  Two thousand years ago a wise teacher was asked to name the most important of God’s laws. His answer was simple: do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  Such ancient wisdom seems so simple.  If I want to be treated with equality and justice, I’ll do the same to others.  If I want to be accepted for who I am, I must accept others for the person God made them to be.  If I don’t want to be judged, labeled, or stereotyped, I need to stop doing that to my neighbor.

Strange days.  Amazing and incredible days filled with joy.  Sad and tragic days filled with loss.  America: we’ve come a long way.  America: we’ve still got miles to go to reach our promised land.

The Reverend John F. Hudson is Senior Pastor of the Pilgrim Church, United Church of Christ, in Sherborn ( 

Categories: Faith/Spirituality, Family, Race | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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