Members of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church and First United Methodist Church families gathered together last Sunday. This was the third year that the two downtown houses of worship gathered together for a joint Thanksgiving service. They take turns visiting each other’s facilities, with the minister from the other church presenting the sermon. This year the service was held at Sixteenth Street with Rev. John Rutland of First Church preaching. It was the first time I’d stepped foot into the storied sanctuary since its renovations had been completed, despite having paid attention to its progress since well before my permanent arrival in Birmingham.
For those of you that are not history buffs, the church was the one where four little girls lost their lives to a bomb explosion shortly before services were to begin. It has come to serve as a major symbol of the national Civil Rights movement, all that has been accomplished and all that has yet to be realized.
The folks from Fox 6, our local affiliate, arrived at the church that evening to file a report on Sixteenth Street’s response to the death of Rev. Cross, Jr., the senior pastor at the time of the 1963 bombing. Having just watched the report filed, it’s a shame that they did not mention the fact that while Sunday is considered probably one of the most segregated days of the week in America (and the world for that matter), there was this opportunity for community building and fellowship happening.
I think that Rev. Cross would have been happy to see the conversations taking place at the church he once served. He may have been disturbed about some of the comments shared after the service, some of which I will not share out of respect for those that I assume may still read this thing.
That being said, there is much more that needs to be done before the evil specters of attack dogs and fire hoses are erased from the subconscious of The Magic City. Some of the conversations I had during the course of the evening made me aware that this is far from being accomplished, no matter what the intentions of those of us who decide to try to focus on all that is right with the world. The hope is still that the hatred is disappearing, and it is; just not fast enough for many of us.
Many would look at the picture that I used on The Terminal to tell this story there and ask “What’s different about this picture?” Well, it’s really not that different at all if it were any other day of the week. Perhaps one day this picture will not be that unusual no matter where you are in the world or what time it is.