In the late 1930’s Harry Albritton began dreaming of a new day for Farmville. It began one day when he and his best friend decided to go to the movies together at the Paramount Theater. When they arrived, Harry became confused, agitated and disappointed as he was told that his friend could not sit with him. For you see, his friend, nicknamed “Ting,” was black. Harry was told that he was welcomed to come in and sit downstairs, but his friend had to use another entrance and sit in the balcony. Harry, not wanting to be separated from his friend, remembers responding: “If Ting is going to sit in the balcony, I am going to sit in the balcony too.” He said, “I was the only white boy in the balcony that day, but I was not going to let skin color separate me from my friend.”
It is almost eighty years later, and a lot has changed in Farmville. However, a lot has remained the same. In many ways, we are still separated. The new day of Harry’s dream as a little boy has yet to arrive.
Yet, there appears to be a light glimmering on the horizon. It’s a distant, faint light, but it’s a light nonetheless. Last Thursday, the Apostle Dr. Aaron McNair from the Mount Moriah Church spoke from the pulpit of the First Christian Church. He boldly admonished us to come together erasing the lines that separate us to be one Church to do the work of Christ together, side-by-side, hand-in-hand: feeding the hungry, lifting up the poor, giving hope to the despairing, speaking truth to power, and exorcising all kinds of demonic evil: structural, systemic, personal and even ecclesial.
McNair said: “Think of what a better town this would be. Think of what a better nation this would be, if we would just come together.”
After he spoke to the congregation that was gathered, he and I embraced there on the chancel. As we hugged, he whispered, “I believe this is the start of something big.”
I whispered back, “I believe it is.”
The light on the horizon is faint, because there is much work to do. If the new day of Harry’s dream, and of so many others since, is to arrive, much will need to change. However, the good news is that wherever there is just a flicker of light, there is hope. And last Thursday, I saw more than a flicker.