Blog post by the Rev. Dr. Craig M. Howard
Presbytery of Giddings-Lovejoy
At last count I have over 100 relatives. Yet, I am the only Presbyterian in my entire family. This includes my children, siblings, nieces, nephews, uncles, aunts, and cousins. I have looked into my family history and gone back to 1865. Not one Presbyterian is mentioned. This is why the story my mother would tell about the Presbyterian church is so prominent.
I grew up in a household of stories. My Mother would tell stories of her childhood, and what life was like in the neighborhood ghetto of Bronzeville, Chicago. This is where the majority of African Americans coming to Chicago during the great migration were forced to live. It was densely packed and desperately poor. But I never knew of the poverty when listening to my mother’s stories.
She talked about her seven brothers and two sisters. She spoke of the crazy antics her cousins would do. She shared stories of my father running the gauntlet through her brothers (physically running!), just to see her.
And she talked about the Presbyterian Church.
Just outside of the cramp spaces of her neighborhood, stood Sixth Presbyterian church (now Sixth Grace Presbyterian). Each summer, Sixth would invite the kids from Bronzeville to learn, play, and have fun in their summer youth program. My mother often spoke of this needed reprieve with great fondness. My childhood memories of Mom sharing stories about Sixth Presbyterian warms my heart even now.
Fast forward to my adulthood. After almost 20 years as a member of the Pentecostal Church which my mother belonged to and loved, I felt called to join the Presbyterians. I went to Mom, hoping for her acceptance and blessing. Once again, she shared her story of Sixth, and how much that meant to her growing up. Then she said, “Craig, I don’t care if you go, just stay with Jesus.”
So many of our congregations serve children and youth with summer programs, Easter events, and Christmas dramas. We are often discouraged by the small return on investment of our time and energy. These children rarely come back as members. I don’t know why my Mother never joined Sixth. I have to believe it had something to do with her being close to her grandmother, who belonging to a Holiness church which Mom attended with her.
But, perhaps we should take the long view. I am a living witness of the value of a long-term investment. What Sixth did for those poor children in Chicago back in the 1930s and 40s have produced a strong Presbyterian adult in 2018. I love the Presbyterian church and am grateful for the warmth in my heart that was created by faithful people; people who had a vision to bring a little joy in the lives of local children.
Rev. Craig M. Howard