The recent celebration of the Martin Luther King speech and the success of the march on Washington prompted a look in the rear view mirror. One timed memory that comes to the surface relates to student days at a southern seminary. The civil rights movement and racial relations were hot topics. Professors encouraged students to apply the gospel of equality, justice, and inclusion in the churches they served. They rightly said that preachers must take a prophetic stance and preach the gospel on the race issues. Some students did so as they scattered to their weekend church pastorates. They were heard thoughtfully enough with limited negative response in some cases. Others met hostility. A few churches dismissed their pastors for preaching about the matter. Charred crosses on parsonage lawns, burned in the night before, greeted a few student pastors on their arrival to their weekend ministries. Some students lost much: friends, support positions they needed to meet seminary and family expenses, hope that their churches would change, and difficulty moving to another ministry because of their known stand for civil rights.
These students did not make the strides that MLK and others made in the progress of civil rights, but they identified and tried and some suffered. They did help to crack the ice a little bit, fissures here and there, that helped to begin melting the frozen landscape of injustice. We are grateful for all those who suffered and made the breakthroughs, names and sacrifices we do not know as well as those we do. But of course now, as Rev. Jesse Jackson said, after looking in the rear view mirror we must look through the windshield and do the work we are still called to do.