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

21 Responses to “A Potosi Story”

    • Craig Howard on

      Jaclyn,
      We never know how far the streams of our relationships stretch! Lankford became the architect of many African Methodist Episcopal Churches (AME). He was not Presbyterian, but Potosi has an indirect relationship to all of those congregations who are inspired by his work. What a powerful testimony! Craig.

      Reply
  1. Thirza Sayers on

    Glad you got to visit my old stomping grounds. I’m so glad you had time to hear the story. Thanks for sharing it with everyone.

    Reply
  2. Kathy Gibbs on

    Thanks for a great reminder. I grew up in a Sundown Town. There was even a billboard with a slogan that made it clear it was a Sundown town. I had forgotten all about that. Sometimes we all need a reminder of where we came from, so we can refocus on where we are going.

    Reply
    • Craig Howard on

      Kathy,
      It is refreshing when we can acknowledge racist (or sexist, gender, class and other) influences upon us, and are able to rise above them. It is a gift to be constantly learning and growing in our faith, and our humanity. Craig.

      Reply
    • Stephen Collier on

      My parents grew up in an area close to a “Sundown County.” My dad was racially prejudiced, but did not demonstrate it in rearing his children, or in any other way that I was aware of. I only concluded he was prejudiced when I was in college and he made a comment that he didn’t believe a black man could have the capacity to be a manager. I respect my father for not promulgating his prejudice in our family.

      Reply
  3. Diane McCullough on

    Dear Dr. Howard, I have so enjoyed reading your articles, but this one inspired a thank you note. Unexpected history is a love of mine and this fit that bill perfectly. More importantly, thank you for your tender and loving approach in the way you wrote this and connected it to the other stories that, so desperately, need to be addressed.

    Reply
    • Craig Howard on

      Diane,
      Thanks! The geographic area of Giddings-Lovejoy is full of history and great stories. I try and learn about each congregation I visit, and the community they are located in. This I fun stuff!! Craig.

      Reply
  4. Joy Slayton on

    Thanks again for being with us on Sunday and bringing such a great message. Just wish there had been more time!

    Reply
  5. vernon bourbon on

    Rev. Howard , Everyone in the Potosi Presbyterian Church enjoyed your Sermon you are a gift of fresh air to our Church ministry and may God Bless you my friend thanks for all that you do , Vernon and Rebecca .

    Reply

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