July 3, 2020
Dear Prairie Avenue Family,
Last Sunday morning, we re-gathered in Fellowship Hall for the first time since March 8. With face masks, and alterations to keep social distancing requirements and health priorities for those present, we worshiped. I'll say this as plainly as I spoke last Sunday morning: the individualized safe communion packages are awful (especially the tasteless, odorless, plastic-like bread wafer). It was difficult to watch lyrics while being unable to sing aloud (although I heard speaking and humming to recognized tunes). But it was so good to see faces again rather than just Facebook Live responses.
This past Wednesday also say the return of youth activities, a welcome resumption of the routine of teenagers in the life of the church.
I recognize many are still cautious about resuming their presence and attendance. We will continue to provide a Saturday evening service at 5 pm at our website:
The Sunday Facebook watch party will still be held at 9 am Sunday morning. We also add the sermon and worship service programming to our
Worship This Weekend
We continue our summer series
Family Reunion: Lessons from Genesis.
This Saturday at 5 pm worship-online, or Sunday at 9 am we will examine the story of the courtship of Isaac and Rebekah. More tellingly, the experience of Abraham's servant encountering God while fulfilling Abraham's desire that Isaac find his wife from Abraham's relatives rather than Canaanite daughters. The idea of romantic love is nearly non-existent in the Bible, with most relationships being arranged marriages. One should be cautious in applying "Biblical standards" to dating and marriage! Even without consulting God directly (remember, Abraham never hears God speak to him again after the near-sacrifice of Isaac!), God's purpose and plan to bless Abraham's family is fulfilled. Loving relationships reveal God's intentions for humanity.
A Word About Independence Day
Tomorrow we celebrate our nation's Declaration of Independence. We likely can recall just one statement from this historical document, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” In this statement, Thomas Jefferson (and a working committee with Benjamin Franklin & John Adams), expressed an Enlightenment-fused ideal that the Divine (or natural existence) has given self-evident truth to the equality of humankind and the endowment of rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. While often this statement is confused with the later United States Constitution, which makes no mention of these rights, humanity's work towards these self-evident equal endowments of rights have often been thwarted, legally denied, and extended only after considerable time and effort. If it required an amendment or legislation in order to get rights and privileges as a group of people, whether gender or race, then those rights and privileges were not as self-evident as it seemed.
Indeed, it took 87 "Independence Day" anniversaries before the Emancipation Proclamation would grant slaves freedom in those states in rebellion against the United States. It took another 2 years before such rights would be enshrined in the 13th Amendment, passed by Congress, and ratified by the states (the last state to ratify the 13th amendment was Mississippi, on March 16, 1995!). Unfortunately, the enforcement of such rights by Federal authorities would end with "reconstruction" in 1876 (and really dirty partisan politics!), and a period of Jim Crow segregation with its philosophy of "separate but equal" which, as we all know, was never equal. Jim Crow conveyed a simple message for eight decades: black lives do not matter, or at least as much, as white lives matter.
We are accustomed to seeing vivid black and white photographs of segregated drinking fountains, restaurants, and businesses from cities, towns, and places in the former states of the confederacy. What is probably unfamiliar to us is the more covert practices of "separate but equal" in northern cities, towns, and places. Real estate developers would draft covenant restrictions on property that would not allow the purchase of the property by any "negro." Often local ordinance would require all vagrants and "negroes" to leave a town by dusk, hence "sundown towns." Fred Long, the first African-American man to graduate from Millikin University, wrote up his 1917 thesis about the African-American community living within Decatur and Macon County. Most were employed in what we would now call personal services: maids, valets, cooks, barbers.
The second resurgence of the KKK began on Stone Mountain in Georgia in 1915. Part of their creed stated that they would, "ever be true to the faithful maintenance of White Supremacy and will strenuously oppose any compromise thereof in any and all things." Membership in the KKK soared in the 1920s, and it is an unfortunate footnote in the history of Prairie Avenue Christian Church that at our opening worship service on September 26, 1924, the congregation accepted "an American flag" from the local KKK chapter.
Jim Crow laws began to be defeated by the courts and the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1965. But the legacy of over 300 years of racism does not disappear overnight. The impact remains in the wealth, health, and education gaps between black and white in Decatur. Between 1935-1940, the Home Owners' Loan Corporation gathered real estate data and evaluations from local real estate professionals -- lenders, developers, and real estate appraisers, assigning grades reflecting a neighborhood's "mortgage security" that were color coded: green for "A" ratings that offered limited risk to banks and lenders, red for "D" considered hazardous and risky for lending. I attach a link to Decatur's map here:
Many of the current dis-invested areas of Decatur accelerated in decline as conventional lending was unavailable in those areas. When Decatur Public Schools officially desegregated, parochial and suburban school district enrollment numbers began to steadily rise.
The hardest sins to confess are the biases, fears, and assumptions that we still carry that were literally centuries in the making. It will require honest conversation, soulful examination, and a genuine commitment to address systemic injustice.
This weekend, as we celebrate our nation’s birth, I want to invite you to pray for our nation, its leaders, and for healing for our country – literally, for the doctors and researchers working on vaccines and treatment for COVID-19, and metaphorically, for the divisions and brokenness in our country. I am praying for you, as I send this e-mail, that you might have a safe and renewing Independence Day celebration.
May your 4th of July be blessed as we remember our nation’s lofty vision, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” and as we seek to live up to this vision.
See you in worship in the Fellowship Hall on Sunday morning at 9am or Saturday online at 5 pm this weekend!