Dear ND Alumni,
I am writing this quick email to you on this Thanksgiving Day morning. I seldom have or take time to go to movies, but last night Patt and I went to see the movie, "The Help." I had started watching it on my flight home last week from Asia but the sound was so bad that I had to stop watching it. However, I saw enough to want to clearly hear and see the whole story in a theatre when I got back. Patt readily agreed to go with me even though she had already seen it with our daughter, daughters-in-law and friends. It was showing at the Graham Cinema -- where all movies are just $3.00 and popcorn comes with free refills! What a deal!
For me it was a powerful, painful and poignant movie! It was like stepping in a time machine and going back to the early days of The New Directions. As a ministry, we were born in those tumultuous days of segregation and integration. Some of our earlier ND members came out of the kinds of homes that were reflected in 'The Help.' Some were from more privileged 'white homes' that had 'domestic help' as the norm. Others came from the 'colored homes' of those same domestic workers. Both our Black and White members had grown up in largely segregated communities and spent most of their earlier education in racially segregated schools. So for us to be working together -- singing together…praying together...traveling together…witnessing together...eating together -- was radical!
Because of our interracial profile, we were thrust into the forefront of the Civil Rights Movement in Alamance County -- and everywhere we traveled with our "Action Experience in Christian Love!" We were just naively seeking to be a positive incarnation and demonstration of the reconciliation that we were finding in the Lord Jesus. We believed and taught that "Racism is not a skin problem -- but a sin problem!" And only the Lord Jesus could forgive the sin and transform the heart to the degree that racism and prejudices could be laid aside for authentic reconciliation in Christ!
“These stones shall be a memorial to the sons of Israel forever” (Josh. 4:7)
This past weekend we celebrated “Memorial Day” as a Nation. It is a time that we pause to remember and give thanks to all of our military people serving in America and around the world. It is especially a time to remember those who “fell in battle” securing the freedoms we enjoy in America today.
One of the uniquenesses of the ND’s was our combination of music and preaching. While we were contemporary in our approach, we were orthodox in our message. As we often explained to people: “Our message is sacred and must never change—but our method is not sacred and must always be open to change.” So God allowed us to be one of His “change agents” to introduce a new paradigm of ministry long before a lot of other people were combining contemporary music with an evangelical message—and especially in an interracial context! Even though we did not always get the balance exactly right— we always struggled with it.