The flowing water memorial at the front of the museum was as astonishing as it was simple. The names and dates of 24 people that died in the civil rights movement starting are engraved on the black oval fountain in front of the wall.
It’s a moving experience to stand there reading the names, remembering their stories. Being from Birmingham, I know all these stories. Some of the stories hit very close to home with me having 3 generations of relatives on the Birmingham fire department.
Today something hits me differently though.
I notice all the Reverends, Pastors, and seminary students on the list. I remember the churches that were the scenes of both rallies and atrocities. It’s impossible to tell the Civil Rights story without the Church.
The current culture will try. But there is no Civil Rights Movement without the Church.
What is a bit depressing is that 50 years later, our military is integrated. Our schools are integrated. Our work places are integrated. And Sunday morning is still the most segregated hour of the week.
So while there is no Civil Rights Movement without the Church, it came because of political movement – not because the Church was the example to the rest of the country.
I know there aren’t easy answers to this issue. I know there are churches that are trying to break cultural barriers. We are trying as well but the issue of being ‘cross-cultural’ can’t be the central focus of the church. The central focus must remain reaching the lost, multiplying Jesus.
Big sigh here.
On the practical side of things, the site and memorial is very hard to find. Parking is a nightmare. It’s worth it but give yourself a few extra minutes to find it and get parking. The workers inside are incredibly friendly and helpful. It’s worth the time if you are around Montgomery.