Many years ago I worked for a residential treatment center for homeless and delinquent youth in a small town in Missouri. Every Sunday we took our children to a local church. It frankly was hard to find a church who would accept our “family” because our kids did not act or dress or come from the same family backgrounds as everyone else in this small town.
The fifth boy who joined our “family” was an African American youngster from KC. This small town in the late 1960’s was still very segregated so I called the pastor of our church to tell him that we were bringing this young boy with us. He said that would be fine but to call him when we left home so he could meet us in the church parking lot.
When we arrived at church the pastor met us and walked our new child down the church aisle with his arms around his shoulder. As people in the pews saw what was happening, the church became silent and almost immediately about one-third of the members quickly and in outright disgust, using very crude language, vacated the church in protest. They were not willing to attend church with an African American child. The pastor did not preach too long that morning because the folks that stayed in the pews had already demonstrated they understood his sermon message – to be accepting and welcoming of all God’s children.
Our pastor was Jim Spainhower (who later became the State Treasurer of Missouri). Jim recently celebrated a “significant” birthday and I wanted to acknowledge him for his act of kindness to my “family” many years ago. His message of accepting and welcoming all God’s children still needs to be emphasized and practiced in today’s society.