Shall We Overcome?

We worshiped at 16th St. Baptist Church this past Sunday morning. “We” refers to the 66 youth and adults from the Central Texas Conference who spent the holiday weekend taking a Civil Rights Road Trip through much of the south.

Worship was energetic and passionate. The music was dynamic and uplifting, the preaching inspiring. The congregation welcomed us warmly.

The service concluded with “We Shall Overcome.” I’d heard it many times before, and know it has been called “the anthem of the Civil Rights Movement.”

I don’t think I’d ever sung it before.  And I am all but positive I’d never sung it in a worship service before. Which got me thinking.

In the Anglo churches of the United States, we don’t talk much about what is to be overcome.  Do we assume that there is no overcoming left to do?

Last week I was at Perkins School of Youth Ministry.  PSYM is a phenomenally good event that you should consider attending next January if you are or would like to be involved in youth ministry.  In one of the workshops I attended, the question was asked, “What are some of the major changes between being a youth now and when you were that age?”

One man answered, “We don’t have all the racial issues we did back then.”

I turned to a friend, a black man in his 40s, who was sitting next to me, and asked, “would you agree with that?”

“No way,” he semi-chuckled.  “Things are better, but we still have a long ways to go.”

Until the majority church realizes that we have not yet overcome, there will remain a long ways to go.

Shall we overcome?

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