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