A Potosi Story

 

Blog Post by the Rev. Dr. Craig Howard
Presbytery of Giddings-Lovejoy Transitional Leader
choward@glpby.org

 


 

On Sunday I retraced the Dan Anderson-Little route and preached at Hillside church at 8:30 a.m., followed by Potosi at 11:30 a.m. Before leaving for Texas, Dan preached at both congregations almost every Sunday! When I arrived at Potosi, I was informed of the history of the church and its work in the community. The church was established in 1832 and the current building was commissioned in 1907 and built in 1909. The architect of the church is John A. Lankford (1847 – 1946). Lankford would become the first African American Architect in the state of Virginia and Washington DC. He was known as the “dean of black architecture,” and would design buildings and churches throughout Virginia and DC.

Why would Potosi choose an African American architect from Virginia to design their church?

Actually, Lankford chose Potosi, and the design of the building was a gift! As a boy, Lankford was raised in the farmland of Potosi. The early members of the church contributed to his higher education. As a show of thanks and appreciation, this famous Architect designed the Potosi church in 1907.

The story of a farm boy becoming a leading architect is wonderful. But in addition, Lankford is the son of slaves, living in a moment of our nation’s history when laws were being formed to reinforce racist ideas. These ideas included the belief that African Americans are less than equal and not capable of learning the sciences or architecture.

Within this atmosphere of racist assumptions, the Potosi church made a significant contribution to the education of this black man.

Somehow, they looked beyond cultural norms and political influence. Instead they saw a young man with potential. The church helped him to realize his goals through the tool Presbyterians use well, education.

As we come closer to Big Tent and the theme of Race, Reconciliation, Reformation, my hope is that Giddings-Lovejoy learn and reflect upon the many stories and history of race in our presbytery. A few of these include the 100-year anniversary of the East St. Louis Massacre, the Civil War in Missouri, the murder of Elijah P. Lovejoy, Sundown Towns and white segregation in suburbia, and the Ferguson riots. These are stories of disappointment and hope; set-backs and progress; life, death, and resurrection.

My prayer is that we are informed by our past and demonstrate actions of love for one another: actions that cross lines of race, class, gender, and sexuality. Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with us.

Rev. Craig M. Howard

Praying

Blog Post by the Rev. Dr. Craig Howard
Presbytery of Giddings-Lovejoy Transitional Leader
choward@glpby.org

 


A good friend, my best friend, found himself and his family in a bit of trouble. He asked if I would pray for him. I was so touched by the circumstance I prayed and prayed hard. I’m not talking about him being “in my thoughts and prayers,” I’m talking about old fashioned get-down-on-my-knees, petition the throne of God, and resist the devil praying! I went back to my Pentecostal roots and called upon the name of the Lord like I haven’t done in a while.

I received a call yesterday from my friend. The worst has come upon him and his family. My prayers did not stop the calamity.

I feel heartbroken and sad. I’ve been tearful since I received the news. And I am still prayerful.

It seems my excellent theological education and my role as Transitional Presbytery leader does not make me immune to the struggles of being a Christian; struggles of learning what it means to walk with God.

I believe the core purpose of each congregation is to make disciples. This means making sure the Word of God is truly preached and heard, and sacraments are properly administered and received. It also means living in community and sharing our joys and concerns. Becoming a disciple means constantly letting go of the simple notion of God as the provider of our wishes and dreams, and instead, embracing the Christ who suffered and died while doing God’s will.

This is a lesson I learn repeatedly. It is learning to trust God, while not tempting God. It is being a co-creator with Christ, working and serving to change the world. It means listening for the move of the Holy Spirit, and being willing to stop when the Spirit says stop, and go when the Spirit says go.

May the God of all consolation, comfort those in time of tribulation, even my best friend. Amen.

Rev. Craig M. Howard

Kampsville’s Questions

 

 

Blog Post by the Rev. Dr. Craig Howard
Presbytery of Giddings-Lovejoy Transitional Leader
choward@glpby.org

 

 


On Sunday, I had the opportunity to preach at First Kampsville. I’m sure we’ve never held presbytery gathering on this Illinois peninsula. Kampsville is a town of 302. The drive to our furthest north congregation meant taking a ferry across the Mississippi river and another ferry across the Illinois river, then driving on winding roads through beautiful bluffs and woods. The drive alone was inspiring.

The amazing thing about First Kampsville is the attendance. They have a membership of 12, but over 20 in attendance! This is because of the “12 faithful visitors” who attend along with the members. These visitors belong to other congregations, but enjoy worshiping at Kampsville as well. The church is only open one day per week, and for one hour of worship and any meetings thereafter. They use an Honorably Retired pastor to preach and serve communion on the first Sunday of the month, and then use a lay pastor the remainder of the month for preaching and pastoral care.

Kampsville is a rural congregation that survives because it uses minimal effort. It only does worship, but it does worship well. Each member knows how to step up and lead. Financially, the church can afford to pay its bills, but their saving reduces a little each year. They are an ageing congregation, yet have a healthy view of their limited future.  

Kampsville raises many questions including the life cycle of a congregation, survival of rural communities, efficient use of buildings and space, the role of pastoral leadership, and the value of membership. As we become a denomination of small congregations (100 or less in worship) we will continue to wrestle with these questions. Kampsville’s questions are the presbytery’s questions.

Rev. Craig M. Howard

Stepping Up in Steelville

Blog Post by the Rev. Dr. Craig Howard
Presbytery of Giddings-Lovejoy Transitional Leader
choward@glpby.org

 

 

 


On Sunday I had the opportunity to preach at our church in Steelville, Missouri. The city is known as the floating capital of Missouri. Considering the number of boats being pulled by trailers, and canoes on roof racks I saw while driving down I-44, I can see why! The worship service went well and included communion. The parishioners were kind and treated me well as their visiting preacher.

What got my attention is what I observed happening along the edges of the sanctuary. For example, when I arrived, the person preparing the candles in the basement didn’t just tell me how to get to the pastor’s office, she stopped what she was doing to show me the way (we often don’t realize how confusing our church buildings are to visitors).  Before worship, I saw members helping older members who were coming off the lift to their seats. I don’t believe there were ushers either. Another person made sure bulletins were in place, while others took care of the communion elements. After worship, another group cleared the communion table, while others changed the paraments from red to green, as next week we move to ordinary time.

In Steelville there is a spirit of doing what is necessary, and not caring who gets the credit.

Perhaps Rev. Wendy Downing, the pastor of Steelville, is super organized and has the church running like a top. I’m all for people having titles and job descriptions, and being efficient. But what I experienced in Steelville was not the usual 80/20 Pareto Principal- 80 percent of the work being done by 20 percent of the people. There were many more hands making light work.

My hope is that people will step up and volunteer in the presbytery like the members of Steelville. Nominating has several openings. Big Tent is still looking for volunteers as well. Prayerfully consider if this is a time for you to do a little more in your church, and in your presbytery as well.

Rev. Craig M. Howard