Roanoke Church of Christ

Month: February 2011


I mentioned a part of “Blood Done Sign My Name” in a sermon and also said I had not yet read it. Just before we flew to Florida Martha White Foy dropped by to give me a copy as a birthday present and something to read on the plane. Having finished it I would make it required reading for anyone going into the ministry.

It is not a book on how to preach, but rather a book that indirectly deals with what I think are the most important qualities for a preacher. Qualities of which I have often been weighed and found wanting.

The book is written by Timothy Tyson, the son of a white Methodist preacher, who grew up in North Carolina during the 60s and 70s when integration was in full bloom. An experience in Tyson’s early days in Oxford, NC changed his life. It had to do with a friend of his saying. “Daddy and Roger and ‘em shot ‘em a nigger. “ He was referring to the murder of Henry Marrow, a twenty-three-year-old black veteran who had been accused of flirting with a white man’s wife. The eventual trial at which the husband, father-in-law and a step-son were found not guilty, and the events that both preceded and followed the trial make up the bulk of the book.

Tyson’s father, Vernon Tyson, as minister of a Methodist church in Sanford, NC, had tried to bring about racial harmony in his town as racial discourse spread across the deep south. After the events of April 1963 in Birmingham, Ala., Vernon Tyson wrote a letter to the editor of the Sanford Herald saying that all the Sanford churches should open their doors to everyone, regardless of color. He received a scolding letter from the editor, warning him that leaders who went “too far, too fast” ended up without any followers, and maybe without a job. Along with the hate mail that followed, were lowered eyes on the streets, and resentful stares.

In 1963, after the assassination of President Kennedy, Vernon Tyson met Dr. Samuel Proctor, president of North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College, and one of the leading black preachers of his time. After hearing Proctor speak, Tyson asked if he would come to Sanford and speak at the Methodist church. Proctor agreed. Both Proctor and Tyson knew that Martin Luther King’s words were true, that eleven o’clock on Sunday morning was the most segregated hour in America, and all-white churches did not welcome black preachers in their pulpits.

When the church members heard about Proctors proposed visit, the telephone rang constantly. A meeting by fifty church members was called and they insisted that the invitation be rescinded. He tried to reason with them, but refused to comply with their demand. Death threats followed, among them threats to dynamite the house. His job was on the line as well.

When Tyson came home from the meeting at the church he was met with the news that a threat had been made to blow up his house and harm his family. He was ready to give in, but his wife gabbed his arms and told him to stand his ground. Even his supporters began to back off. Their comments are almost the “scripture” of churches, “It isn’t worth tearing the church apart over.”

The night before Proctor was to speak there was another meeting called. The board demanded that Tyson call and cancel the appointment. One member pushed the phone across the desk saying, “You can end all this with just one phone call.” Others said it was going to tear up the church. Then Miss Amy Womble, a sixty-year-old first grade teacher, who had taught most of the people in the room, stood up. I won’t tell all her story, but she said something that needs repeating. After saying she knew their preacher and she didn’t know Dr. Proctor, She said, “If there’s going to be any tearing done, we’re going to do the tearing apart ourselves.” Then she went on to remind them that a white boy near Chapel Hill had run his car off the road and was killed in the crash. As they stood waiting for the ambulance to take him to the funeral home, an airman from Pope Air Force Base stopped. He went down to the boy and opened his mouth. He saw the boy’s tongue was stuck in his throat and he ran his finger in and pulled out the tongue. He then gave the boy mouth to mouth resuscitation. By the time the ambulance got there the boy was walking around. The following week they had a big dinner at the fire station for the airman. Then Miss Amy paused and said, “What I haven’t told you is that the boy who had been in the wreck was white, and the airman that saved him was a black man.” She looked around the room and said, “Now which one of you fathers would have said to that airman, ‘Now, don’t run your black fingers down my boy’s white throat’? Which of y’all would have told that airman, ‘Don’t you dare put your black lips on my boy’s mouth’?” Dr Proctor spoke at the church the next day to a packed house.

One of the members who was a wholesale grocery salesman said that when he told a costumer he was supporting Tyson’s asking Dr. Proctor to speak, he was ordered out of the store and told never to come back.

A few years later, in 1966, Tyson was invited to a church at Oxford, NC. There, amid the racial tension of the time, he once again invited a black minister to preach. Once again, he was in trouble, but not as much as before. It would be his stand in trying to bring reconciliation during the riots after Henry Marrow’s killers went free, that sent the Tyson family to Wilmington.

Timothy Tyson’s life was so changed by his father’s courage and the death of Henry Marrow, that he went to Duke and earned his Ph.D. and is now teaching Afro-American Studies at the University of Wisconsin.

As I read the book, I was reminded too much about the times in West Virginia during the sixties and seventies, I stood by far too quietly as Church of Christ preachers passed out their racist, bigoted, material.

It would be nice to say such things are in the past, but they are not. Prejudice of all kinds still raises its ugly head. And, as it was then, far too much of it comes from the pews of churchgoers. And it is always based on the same thing, fear.

CONCERNS: Mary Smith has had a setback. Another vertebra has fractured. However, they are hoping it will heal by her wearing a cast. She will be in rehab a few more days. Brice Reid had an appendicectomy on Wednesday afternoon. He is home and doing fine. Several in the congregation have been sick with chest congestion and head colds. Remember the Hall’s neighbor who has cancer. Mike Breeding has not yet had his surgery. Keep him and his wife in your prayers. Joanne Elder and Erma Williams are still job hunting. Joni Beach’s mother is about the same. Connie Crites father, and Debbie Conner, whose husband, Randy, has what seems to be terminal cancer. Helen Nicklas is about the same. Continue to remember Barbara McCauley, Jenni and Wilma Cullum, Tim Elder, and Roger Fisher’s nephew in Florida, who has cancer, but is responding to treatment. Also the work of Health Talents and Bread For A Hungry World.

Monday: Jeremiah 31:23-34
Tuesday: I Cor. 11:17-34
Wednesday: Acts 6:1-7
Thursday: Matthew 5:21-48
Friday: Psalm 119:129-152
Saturday: Psalm 67:1-7
Monday: I Timothy 6:11-21
Tuesday: Psalm 119:89-112
Wednesday: Mark 2:15-3:6
Thursday: Acts 8:4-24
Friday: Luke 22:39-53
Saturday: 1 Cor. 15:42-58

Sleiman e-mailed last week to say that he had retired from AEP and had taken a position in Houston, TX. He will be leaving Columbus in March and Juliette and the children will follow in June. Maria is a Junior at Ohio State and Danielle is a Junior in High School.

Sunday, February 20, is Super Sunday. As the weather changes what better way to enjoy a good meal and good friends than to eat together. Plan to stay.

We are still in the process of taking updated pictures for the new directory and this Sunday looks to be a nice day. Some of the pictures taken a week or so ago didn’t turn out due to the sun reflecting in the lens. Erma will be taking them after the service and during our fellowship time together.

Our young folks are at Winterfest in Gatlinburg, TN. This weekend and will be returning on Sunday. They hope to be here in time to enjoy the Super Sunday meal with us. Keep them in your prayers as they travel home.

Last week a woman dropped by the office and said she wanted to make a contribution to the church. It seems we had helped her several years ago and she wanted to give back. After being told that was not necessary, she insisted and presented a hundred dollar bill. When asked if that was what we had given her she replied she had only needed fifty-two, but she wanted to give the hundred.
In all the forty some years I have been preaching that is the first time anyone ever did anything like that. Say a little prayer for this unusual woman.

You will notice that the two pictures (of which only one was on the wall until it was taken down for VBS) in the foyer have been hung. Frames for the pictures sent by the chaplain for the troops we helped in Iraq
have been purchased. As soon as a frame and a self for the flag is found, they will be placed on the wall downstairs. Rather than hang the flag it seemed more appropriate to frame it and place it on a self out of the way.


If I were a certain kind of person, which I am not, I might be a little spooked by the fact that just a week after I picked on the “Jesus is coming soon” folks, the newspaper reports there is a group that is now sure of it. It will take place on May 21, 2011. I’m not sure of the time but it will probably be after midnight when it is dark or as the sun shines from the east to the west.

I know these folks do not represent main line Christianity, even though there is a large number of people who are sure it’s soon, but not sure of the date. However, this group, lead by an 89 year old “prophet” (Remember I said some people can’t stand the thought of dying without taking the rest of us with them. This guy doesn’t have that much longer) named, Harold Camping. He is a retired civil engineer, which only means that he is not uneducated, even if he is going to be sadly wrong. How do I dare say that? Because I have my own calculations. All I can say is that if any of those folks own a house in south Florida they will not need after May 21, I’m open for taking it over on May 22 regardless if they go or not.

They are not a large group, but they still have the resources to use traveling caravans of RVS and renting billboards across America, as well as spreading the word in foreign lands.

Now all this is not new and I certainly don’t want to curtail their freedom of belief. But this quote from one of the adherents really bothers me theologically. Allison Warden, of Raleigh, NC, says, “If May 21 passes and I’m still here, that means I wasn’t saved. Does that mean God’s word is inaccurate or untrue? Not at all.”

On May the 22nd I’m not sure what this young woman is going to do. If you are not saved, do you go on believing in God when there is no hope for you? Or do you readjust your ideas about the Bible? I hope she, as well as her leader, change their understanding of scripture. However, when the attitude is sealed in stone, “My understanding of God’s word is accurate and true” there is little hope for change. What often happens is giving up on the Bible altogether. There are any number of atheists who were once believers with a wrong understanding of the Bible.

Anyone who grows in grace and knowledge has to also grow in the way they understand God and scripture. On a simple level, I once was sure how big heaven was. It was literally a 1,500 mile cube, only I used cubits back then. In fact, I’m not sure if 1,500 miles is correct and I don’t care. Because I now understand that to be a figure of speech rather than a literal city. That goes for the street of gold and wanting a mansion that is silver lined as well.

There is the constant need to revisit the views we hold about God. After all, few if any of us got them by revelation. We got them from those who taught us, just as I did the size and literalness of heaven. We are told the Bible is true even before we can absorb it for ourselves. We are told how the Bible is true and warned not to fool with it. It is presented as an untouchable document. Of course, just as these “end times” folks are doing, we accept some person’s idea about what it means. All of us have eaten what someone else cooked for us. Does that make it bad? No. But it must be tested. If we accept Jesus as the one who reveals the nature of God, then we start with discovering who and what he was. That in and of itself is not easy, as anyone who observes the Christian religion can see. We make him in our own image and in our own social and political ideologies. This started soon after Jesus’ death and can be seen in the letters of Paul and it will continue.

What we continually have to do is realize we understand God as we understand the world around us. There is an evolutionary quality to human knowledge and understanding. It takes place in medicine, science, music, art and social interaction. But in the area of God, and all kinds of religions concerning a deity, such an evolution is often considered heresy.

For example, there are those who still defend slavery because it is part of the cultural scene of the Bible. To do so is to miss and to misunderstand the nature of God as revealed in Christ’s teachings. As Elvis sang, “I’m (you’re) caught in a trap.” But it’s not cause I love you too much baby.

CONCERNS: Mary Smith spent some time in Pheasant Ridge undergoing rehab after her back surgery. Hopefully she will be home by the weekend, but if not, she is in room 609B. Judy Hall is mending well after injuring her elbow. Remember the Hall’s neighbor who has cancer. Also Mike Breeding and his wife, Trisha, the Bolin’s friend, Joanne Elder and Erma Williams as they job hunt. Joni Beach’s mother got a good report. Her cancer has not advanced, but it is still serious. Connie Crites’ father. Helen Nicklas is not doing very well at this time. Little Isabelle Simmons has responded very well to her treatment for Leukemia. Debbie Conner, a friend of Erma’s that some of us know, husband, Randy, has cancer that seems to be quickly spreading. Continue to remember Roger Fisher’s nephew in Florida who has cancer, Barbara McCauley, Jenni and Wilma Cullum, Tim Elder, and the work of Health Talents Int., Bread For A Hungry World, the unrest in Egypt and in other needy spots in the world.
Monday: Genesis 12:1-20
Tuesday: I Samuel 3:1-8
Wednesday: Philippians 4:8-23
Thursday: I John 4:7-21
Friday: Romans 7:13-8:11
Saturday: Ephesians 3:7-21
Monday: John 10:1-18
Tuesday: Matthew 13:24-43
Wednesday: Psalm 90:1-17
Thursday: Luke 14:15-24
Friday: Amos 5:18-6:1
Saturday: Psalm 71:1-24

Our Sympathy is extended to Judy McWhorter and Jan Overstreet in the death of an aunt who died in Georgia. Also, former member, Rhonda McRoy’s grandmother died. The funeral was in Alabama.

For those of you who receive the bulletin beyond the congregation, there was no mid-January bulletin due to the Wagner’s being on vacation.

Also, if you have E-mail and you do not receive the bulletin that way you can go to the church website and at the place under the minister’s name there is a “subscribe” button. However, if you already receive the bulletin via E-mail, and you have a new E-mail address, let Keith know and he will see that the old one is deleted and the new one added. This will keep the list from filling with addresses that are no longer valid. As the new directory is completed all E-mail addresses of members who currently receive the bulletin via E-mail will be checked against the new directory. As to the directory, Erma Williams will be taking the new pictures in the weeks to come, probably up till Super Sunday.

Several of our young folks will once again be attending Winterfest in Gatlinburg, TN the third weekend of this month.

If you noticed some parts of trees near or behind the annex, the weather has kept the man doing the work from being able to put his truck on the soft ground. As soon as the ground hardens several more trees behind the annex will be removed.

Since Judy Hall has injured her elbow she will be on the sidelines of knitting the scarves she will distribute to the various groups she has been working with. She needs at least two more knitters to help finish this up. If you can help please see Judy.

Famis Plus is Virginia’s Health Insurance (Medicaid) for children under 19 in low income families. Depending on income, this service for children can be either free or at a small cost. This program is not well known, so if you know someone who needs such help, see the downstairs bulletin board for information.