I got back in to my hotel last night about 11:30 or so after having a late night meal with the staff of King’s Cross Church. I intended to write a little about it but fell asleep and then over-slept and missed the sessions this morning. Attending the New Baptist Covenant Celebration last night was a profound experience for me, the whole being much greater than the sum of its parts. Dr. William Underwood (President of Mercer University) set the tone with some great words of welcome. The music was good (The Greater Traveler’s Rest Baptist Church Choir and the Mercer University Singers sang). Dr. William Shaw (pastor of the White Rock Baptist Church in Philly and President of the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc.) preached a great sermon, and President Jimmy Carter was wonderful in his presentation as well. I took some random notes but they confirm what I said above, it wasn’t what was said as much as it was the experience of bing present.
I sat on the 4th row to the left of the platform. I sat with no one I knew. I was the only white person on my row. When the first hymn began, tears almost began to fall (and if you know me, that is VERY strange). When we held hands later in the service during a prayer, for the first time in my life in a worship service, I did not hold a white hand. When we began to disperse, the African American persons with whom I had just worshiped God, spontaneously hugged me and I hugged them back.
Now the cynic in me is mocking me, screaming, “KUMBAYA! MY LORD!” and trying to get me to erase the paragraphs above. But I’m not going to do that. What happened last night was very real. I wouldn’t want to make it into more than it actually was, and there are some “youth-camp invitation” aspects to it. But for the first time in a very long time, I was actually proud to be a Baptist. For the first time, maybe ever, I was looking forward to reading the papers and seeing what they might write about a group of gathered Baptist Christians. And for the first time in quite a while, I think I actually worshiped. It was a good night.