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…