Friday, January 28, 2011

Questions from Crisis, part 2

Continuing a sermon by Rev. Ronald W. Leichty at First EUB in North Manchester, Indiana (May 14, 1967).

Persons told me that this man [Dr. King] had no right to speak in our community. Students wrote into the newspaper indicating their conviction that this man was a communist. Shopkeepers were apprehensive. At least one was reported that he would lock his shop and leave town for the day because he was frightened. At least one other told me that they were ready to lock the shop on a moments notice as soon as any trouble that they expected erupted.

On the campus I found four general attitudes. One was to give Dr. King a fair hearing. One was an attitude by which the student would leave campus and not be a part, not be around. One group was planning to get up and leave in a mass protest as soon as the man came onto the stage. Another was going to stand and give him a rising ovation before he said a word. An African student at the college was telephoned with threats so often that he left town because he could not endure it.

At least one other clergyman besides myself received a telephone call before 7:00 that morning asking us to read books on how communism came to this country; with the obvious implication that we were ignorant on the subject, and that our actions indicated a sympathy either knowledgeable or without knowledge.

Persons in our community whipped up fervor, making the vocal minority, which I am certain was a minority; but making this vocal minority seem bigger than it was. One person spoke in a group where I was in attendance said something like this: “Wherever this man goes, he causes trouble. If one stone is thrown, the whole town will be torn apart!”

I don’t know what you heard, but these are some of the things that I heard. And my friends, I was shocked. For this week I have been weak.

Dr. King did not come. And neither did the large group of Negroes from surrounding cities that had been promised for demonstration. And neither did the large group of rabble rousers arrive that had been anticipated. Indeed a demonstration on campus was so small that WANE-TV in reporting this incident said that they tried to make their numbers appear larger by each carrying two signs instead of one. The crowd in the auditorium was quiet and orderly.

The apprehensions proved unnecessary. But of this I am convinced, the fact of Dr. King’s appearance at this moment was unimportant and remains unimportant. What was and is of  greatest importance as I see it is evidence of feeling that has come into the open. A feeling and emotion that is still with us; and feelings that will remain as they are unless something positive is done about them.

to be continued

Friday, January 21, 2011

Questions from Crisis, part 1

A friend came across this sermon, preached by Rev. Ronald W. Liechty on May 14, 1967 at First Evangelical United Brethren Church in North Manchester, Indiana. It’s a picture into a time that for many of us is becoming too remote to understand. It also shows the courage of a preacher in a difficult time as he calls his people to a holy and devout life. It’s presented here with permission from Rev. Liechty.

“It had been common knowledge for some months that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had been invited to speak at a convocation at Manchester College. Being relatively new in this community, I expected some feelings to be evident. However,  I must admit I was totally unprepared for the extremes of the attitudes that were exhibited in our town during this past week.

To be sure, there were some moments of moderation; and to be sure, there were some positive attitudes, but the general attitude of the negative completely overwhelmed me. For me personally this was not evident and was in the background until a meeting I attended last Monday noon. At that time a meeting of business leaders of our community to discuss business matters ended in a discussion of the coming of this man to our town. One man spoke out in opposition to the visit. And soon a number of other expressed their views; and the comments were acid. They were remarks like this: “that n______ is going to take all that money out of our town.” They were remarks like this: “the stand he has taken in Viet Nam marks him as a communist.” For 45 minutes the leaders of our community exhibited this type of feeling. And it was only through the quiet intervention of another respected gentleman of this town that this tirade of words finally ceased.

I went home limp. I was shocked at the complete lack of tolerance, the inability to accept a dissenting voice, and the seeming complete lack of understanding of what education is all about. But even more to me was the mystery of such deep feelings that were obviously a part of the warp and fabric of our community. Feelings that had been covered up until that moment.

From that time on, last Monday noon, I did some detective work around our community both in the campus and in our town attempting to find out just what the thinking was of our people in regard in regard to the coming of this man. Again, there were some moderating influences and some moderating voices, but by and large my findings merely supported the attitudes of that which I have just described.

to be continued

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Baptism vs. Dedication

A serious question for my friends who are United Methodist pastors - do you do Infant Dedication as well as Infant Baptism in your church?

If so, where do you find the liturgy for a dedication? You’d have to go outside the denomination or to an old (almost pre-merger) Book of Worship. The lack of a liturgy for Infant Dedication in the current Book of Worship at least implies that we don’t do dedication, doesn’t it?

And more questions: How does dedication fit into your overall theology of baptism? How do you distinguish between a dedication and a baptism, for yourself, for your congregation, for the parents?

Where, if at all, does Confirmation fit into this over-all picture? As the institutional way we urge young people to make a Profession of Faith.

I’m asking because I’ve followed pastors who only allowed Infant Dedications and I’ve followed pastors who only allowed baptism. I know pastors who will do either/or. I’ve wrestled with this a lot myself, both in seminary and in the parish. I know where I’ve come down on this, but I know that I have colleagues who have differing ideas. Sadly, there is rarely an opportunity for us to exchange those ideas.

I’m hoping to hear from at least some of you here. I really want to know what you think.