Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
August 29, 2005
Lessons learned at lunch
Light One Candle
In the early 1950s, eight mechanical engineers, working in the Midwest, ate lunch together every day. Seven of the men were white and one was black.
Mostly their conversations were about sports, but as more of the national news focused on the racial tensions in the South, the group began asking Floyd, the lone black man, questions about the South and what it was like growing up with segregation.
Although it was obviously painful at times, Floyd told his lunchmates about his boyhood experiences.
Some of the stories went on a bit long and when the others kidded Floyd about the length, he responded, "Sorry, but you guys asked, and it appears God put me at this table to educate you on the sin of discrimination."
The others were moved listening to Floyd, especially Emmett.
One Sunday, during church services, he looked around his church and realized that the congregation was composed entirely of white people.
"Until then, I never noticed that we were a 'segregated' community. Our church was in a poorer neighbourhood with a mostly black population, but it appeared that none of our neighbours felt comfortable coming to the church.
"Looking around that Sunday I wondered what I could do to make our church more welcoming to all, regardless of colour, and how we could be more committed to practising what we said we believed."
On the way home, Emmett told his wife what he had noticed and that he wanted to do something to change that condition. She supported his idea.
Within a week, his wife invited their pastor and a selected group of friends from church over for coffee.
Emmett gently steered the conversation to the question of how their church could be more welcoming to their neighbours. There was an almost surprisingly positive response from everyone in the room.
The group continued to meet and invited Floyd to help them plan a Welcome Neighbours Sunday. Floyd stressed that flyers and posters in the neighbourhood would be good, but to personalize the invitation the group should go door to door.
On a Saturday, three weeks before the designated Sunday, the small church group knocked on the doors of 300 homes in the neighbourhood. Some of those visited said they were not interested, but most were impressed with the invitation to visit the church.
On Welcome Neighbours Sunday 38 people from the neighbourhood attended. A program after the service was very simple - a short talk by the pastor and Emmett, inviting their neighbours to attend the church on a regular basis, and then members and visitors socialized over coffee and cookies.
The result was that six black families from the neighbourhood joined the church and, since that first Welcome Neighbours Sunday, that number has increased dramatically.
Today, the church has a black minister and each Sunday it has a beautiful mix of skin colours worshipping God.
Years later, when Emmett talked about that first Welcome Neighbours Sunday he said that when he saw how "segregated" the congregation was he knew he had to do something to change it.
"I believe God put Floyd with us for a reason and that he wanted me to act on what I had learned at lunch."
Who is the Floyd in our life - and are we listening?
(For a free copy of the Christopher News Note, write: The Christophers, 12 East 48 St., New York, NY, 10017; or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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