Sunday, January 18, 2009


At early service, the band did "We Shall Be Free" (Stephanie Davis/Garth Brooks) as our anthem. It went well, and marked the debut of a new band member on lead vocal (our band has never had this many people in it before -- nine! -- exciting...).

I got back into the groove of singing at both worship services today. Someone different gave the children's sermon at each service, but they both covered the same topic: Martin Luther King Jr. Day is tomorrow, he wanted segregation to end and for everybody to be treated the same, and also wanted us to love each other, because he followed Jesus like we do.

When I heard the second version of this message, complete with little kids explaining segregation and why it needed to end, I realized there was no flippin' way I could've heard such a children's sermon when I was that age. I remember people who were angry that MLK Day was a federal holiday. I heard casual use of the "n" word. I saw deep divisions. I remember deciding not to invite my summer camp roommate home with me during 4th of July break, because she was African-American and I was afraid of what some members of my extended family might say around her -- or to me when she wasn't around.

I don't know if the racial climate in that part of the country (or in my extended family) has changed or not; I don't spend enough time there to really tell. But I do hope that today's children's sermon in my childhood church was something like the one I heard in my own sanctuary.

Looking at who we'll remember tomorrow, and what we'll be celebrating on Tuesday, I begin to see that we've come far. And I still believe we have a long way to go. Which is why I consider "We Shall Be Free" one of the most patriotic songs out there: It calls us to be better than we are. It isn't over. We aren't finished. We can do better.

This ain't comin' from no prophet
Just an ordinary man
When I close my eyes I see
The way this world shall be
When we all walk hand in hand

When the last child cries for a crust of bread
When the last man dies for just words that he said
When there's shelter over the poorest head
We shall be free

When the last thing we notice is the color of skin
And the first thing we look for is the beauty within
When the skies and the oceans are clean again
Then we shall be free

We shall be free
We shall be free
Stand straight, walk proud
'Cause we shall be free
When we're free to love anyone we choose
When this world's big enough for all different views
When we all can worship from our own kind of pew
Then we shall be free
We shall be free

We shall be free
Have a little faith
Hold out
'Cause we shall be free

And when money talks for the very last time
And nobody walks a step behind
When there's only one race and that's mankind
Then we shall be free

We shall be free
We shall be free
Stand straight, walk proud, have a little faith, hold out
We shall be free

We shall be free
We shall be free
Stand straight, have a little faith

We shall be free


zorra said...

I had similar feelings yesterday, when the pastoral prayer included thanksgiving for Dr. King's life and work. Certainly we still have a long way to go, but we have come a long way already.

Mary Beth said...


Princess of Everything (and then some) said...

Very well written. I remember my grandparents using the *n* word. They honestly felt that there was nothing wrong with it. We have come a long way. I just hope that we can continue moving forward.

Michelle said...

Very lovely note. I feel the same way a lot of times. Yesterday, my dad gave me new insight into the dislike of such a great man. It was new and helped me understand a little better, so I thought I would share.

You see, my dad was a teacher when integration happened. And he dealt with all the nasty details that occurred during that transition. And, even though he says that it should have happened a long time before it did, he still associates the pain of all those children with MLK Jr. The thing is, he took away their choice. And the choice they had, although it was terribly inadequate and unfair, was not a fight. He forced them to fight.

It's hard for me to think about a man that I associate with peace and greatness as someone who took away peace from children. But, that's how my dad and many of those people you were thinking about see it.

Hope that helps. I'm so excited about today too!

DogBlogger said...

Glad your dad shared his perspective, Michelle. It's important for us to know that angle, too.

John said...

Yes. "We Shall Be Free" isn't just about what we are, as most patriotic songs are. It's about what we can be and should be.

I never heard the N word growing up, but my grandmother used the term "negro". And she spoke in a clipped fashion that would make it sound like the N word. I remember escorting her to the hairdresser one day and hearing her say it to young black men. I was so afraid that I was about to get into a fight.

I didn't grow up with Black people, and so was nervous around them until the age of about eight. My daughter, however is one of only a handful of white children in her daycare. She will grow up in a social environment in which multiracialism is normal. And that's a very good thing.