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TC: Like we have done in the past, I would like to introduce all of our
panelists for the audience, and get a brief sketch of their background.
Then have each panelist share with us their experiences, feelings, and
fundamental thoughts and beliefs. If you have any questions or need
clarification on a point or want to make a point, these are the people
that we would like you to interact with. Mr. Jim Kelly, Deacon Charles Lawson,
Reverend Neil Sherouse, Mrs. Marilyn Escue, Dr. Allan Burns, Mrs.
Leoris Richardson, Mr. Arthur Spencer.
JK: I feel a little bit intimidated because of the Reverend and what not. I
am just an old racehorse breeder who raises horses for people to gamble
on. I also have not been too popular. I have been called a person from
the whore of Babylon. I have been called a nigger lover. I just never
fit in with the mainstream. Things have not always been that way. They
were not that way fifteen years ago, ten years ago. If we want to dwell
in the past, we have nothing to be proud of. I am not a preacher. I was
born a Catholic and always had a hard time being one. The Baptist Church
across the corner on one hand, the Methodist Church on the other: The Klu Klux Klan
would meet in one one week and talk about the Catholics,
niggers, and Jews. It left me in a kind of limbo. Even when my kids were
at Santa Fe on Sunday morning, we would get up early and go to the seven
o'clock Mass. You would be driving down the road here past First Baptist
Church and you would see us with the horse trailer because we were going
My present is what I am concerned with. But I bring up the past so that
we do not slip back into the past. Today I was going down to Ocala to
deliver a truckload of hay and I saw an old man I know on a farm there. I
asked him if he wanted to ride down to Ocala with me. He said, "Yes." We
were riding along and I said, "I have to make a talk tonight. It is
supposed to be on religion and values. Can you help me?" He said, "You
know I am an atheist." So anyway, he gave me a bunch of values and goals
for Alachua County and Alachua. I got to thinking how it was pretty much
the same goals as most of us have. We want to grow, we want to stay a
small community with growth. We want clean industries. We want nice
people. We want all these things. We want our children to grow up and be
able to have jobs. Now this is supposed to be religion and he has got the
same goals a lot of us have. Our real goals should be that we arrive at a
point in life where we have peace, joy, and happiness which comes from
God. Our goals should be that our children should grow up in an
atmosphere that they will have love, joy, and peace.
I say I am not a preacher, but I am lying a little bit. For the last six
or seven years, I have been going over to the Union Correctional
Institution the first Saturday of every month. We go over there first
because the Catholic men over there felt they were not going to church if
they did not have Mass. We try to get a priest to go with us sometimes.
So these seven years we have been going there. We have gotten to know the
main chaplain very well. A month or so ago he said, "We are starting a
new program. We have always stayed here in the chapel and waited for
people to come where it is nice, comfortable and safe. The only people
that can come are the ones that are on good behavior, the ones that live
in the West Unit, because it is the less restricted part. There are
people up there which have been locked up for two years that never see
anybody, but in that you have been coming a long time and you should know
your way around in this type of atmosphere. Come on a Thursday night and
join us." I agreed to join these two. There was another man that we
invited to come with us. I called him and he said he just could not go.
Boy, was I relieved. The next Thursday came, and I could not go. A third
Thursday came, and we went.
That is a prison over there UCI that is where they put all the people
with long terms, repeat offenders, people that have been trouble-makers,
and other criminals. They have a head chaplain who is with the Church of
the Nazarene. They have an assistant chaplain who is in the Church of
God. They have another new assistant chaplain, a Baptist. They have an
Episcopalian minister that comes in on a voluntary basis, about four days
a week. They have an occasional Catholic priest that comes. We drove
over there and when we got there the chaplain talked to us for a minute.
Someone had just gotten murdered that day, gotten stabbed with a
screwdriver right outside the chaplain's office. So just to shorten up a
little bit, we were all shook up, trying to get in touch with the man's
family. They brought his folder out to look at it. His mother and father
were Catholic. It evaluated him as being indifferent to any religion.
But they were very concerned. We had a little prayer meeting before we
went into the locks. We went into a chapel that had 120 prisoners, three
chaplains, and visiting volunteer ministers. At the prayer service the
prisoners were all there praying for our safety when we went in there. We
were in there by ourselves with several hundred murderers and rapists with
no protection at all. But with the prayers of this little group, we felt
safe and comfortable. When you are spit at, it does not hurt. We could
not talk to Spanish people because I do not speak Spanish. We did not
have anybody who spoke Spanish that went over there. Say, "Comprende,
praise God!" Pray a little in sign language.
These men prayed, not for themselves, they were praying for us. They were
praying for the families, for the man that was killed. They were praying
that the murderers would come to God for forgiveness. The whole thing was
the sweetest relationship that you have ever seen. And the one thread
that goes through it all is that we all respect each other. We all love
God, believe in his love, but in a different way. I am telling you this
hoping that they same thing will come forth, but we never forget how easy
it is to slip into hate, mistrust, and telling other people what they
believe. You do not know what they believe.
We are just a small group here and each one of us will have a little part
in spreading his type of love and have an effect. When we think of big
cities, like Detroit which was once a town like Alachua, a little old tiny
village with people and churches scattered around. We could become
another Detroit, God forbid. But when they were growing, they let their
values get completely out of hand. Instead of their values being love,
joy, and peace, their values got to be big industry, high-paying jobs,
lots of money and prestige. They came down here and bragged about their
high wages while we were down here working for nothing; sell those cars
whether they were a piece of junk or not. They did not care, just sell
them. So they were in the same place we were. This was a little town.
And if IBM came here, great. That was what everybody wanted, a nice,
clean industry. If IBM comes with a whole lot of people, we will have to
do our little part in trying to keep a sense of values.
TC: Last Thursday night, we had a program on local government and we really
did not have a hot issue to discuss at all. At this time Dr. Deacon
Charles Lawson, will you share some of your thoughts with us, please?
CL: Right now, at this point, I only know about two men. One of the men was
scared and the other one dead. You see, I am still here. I would like to
take out one word here and work off it, and that word is religion. We are
all the time wondering, "What is religion?" We have been asked questions
about religion. You deal with people who want to think that religion is
something that you get. But really, it is something that you keep. You
must keep it. You have got to keep it. There is no other way out. But
for our community and our churches, the genuine religion tonight would
bring about a unity of the community. Let's go back and get the homes
where we need the foundation of this religion. Now, your religion will
teach you to do unto all men the things you would have them do unto you.
Therefore, we would be a good and better people. But we must, by all
means, have that good, genuine religion. This genuine religion is based
on love. I hope I am not getting out of character. I do not want to get
into the Bible. I want to kind of beat around it. I would like to say
you can tell, you are not a judge, but you can tell a man or a woman that
fails to have that genuine religion. This is one point I want to get
over at this meeting tonight. You can love everybody. It is a bad
condition if nobody loves you. This love, it is something that moves
about, that is involved in this religion and when we keep this religion,
we live it in our homes, we live it in the community. We live it in our
churches, we teach it everywhere we go. Tell men and women how this
religion will make you act, that this religion will make you respect and
obey the rules and regulations of the community in which you live. This
religion that I have will not allow me to litter in the city because it is
AB: Deacon Lawson, we are not giong to let you off the hook that easily. Now
Mr. Kelly said that we do not want to slip back into the past, the hate
and the problems we had with the past. But if you could just talk a
little bit about the early days of your church here in Alachua. What
started it and how did it draw people to it? A little of that history
might be good for us.
CL: I would like to say, let's go back and pick up that first statement.
There is nothing wrong with looking back, but I would advise you to not go
back. Now I have only been working here in this church or in this city
for about forty years. I have been working with the churches of this city
now for about thirty-five or forty years and I have found that we really
have some religious people in our churches. We have that in our community
and in our church. We have religious people. Now, in our community, we
have organized twelve churches. This is the unity of our community and
once a month, every second Sunday, we come together. We have the sermon,
we have the other parts of the program, and fellowship. So I feel that
our churches in the community are going forward with the good desire to do
better as we go. Now, I do not want anyone to think that we have
graduated. We have got a good little piece to go yet, because it has not
yet appeared what we should be like. We have got to keep on working with
our churches. We have got to keep working in our community until we can
reach our goals, and that will be perfection. But whatever happens, I
will still be a Christian. If I have to, I will come back and talk some
AB: I am sure some people will have some questions later on.
TC: Reverend Neil Sherouse.
NS: Mr. Kelly, if it will make you feel any better, this is one Baptist who
went to seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, the home of Kentucky Bourbon and
the Kentucky Derby. There is a subject which is near and dear to my heart
which I am going to perhaps bore you with tonight. But, we were given a
good bit of freedom in determining our topics tonight. In fact, they told
us to talk about whatever we wanted. So I chose something that, to me, is
very significant and I think I am sharing this tonight because of some
observations I have made about our community in the three-and-a-half years
I have been here. The Gospel of Luke records Jesus' growing in wisdom,
stature, and in favor with God and man. Luke, you remember, was a
physician and it is rare in any Hebrew literature that we get that kind of
delineation of what is the totality of personhood. Jewish literature
usually just talks about the soul, as one unity. Spirit and body cannot
But in this particular case Luke, the physician, chooses to enumerate for
us four areas of growth in which Jesus exhibited development and maturity.
I think we also acknowledge these as being important areas: Wisdom,
intellectual growth, stature, physical growth, in favor with God, growth
in terms of spiritual growth, and in favor with man, social growth. It
was not that Luke was uneducated and did not recognize the psychological
or emotional dimension of personhood. But Luke, being the good Jew that
he was, also recognized that emotional development cannot proceed without
spiritual development. So in his mind the two were the same. That is why
he seemed to have left that out where we would have put it in. In our
society we tend to put emphasis on only two of those areas of development,
to the neglect of the others. Our government right now is pushing very
hard to upgrade the science and math programs or our schools. We are,
again, placing emphasis on the intellectual development of our children.
We have, for a number of years, probably at least since President Kennedy,
put a great deal of emphasis on the physical training and conditioning of
our young people. This is all well and good but to be perfectly honest
with you folks, unless we develop these other dimensions of personhood,
the increased intellectual prowess and vast physical strength of our young
people is going to be positively worthless because it will not be
channeled constructively. You see, what good is istgoing to do us to be
the most intellectual and physically conditioned nation in the world if we
do not know how to make moral decisions, if we do not know how to relate
to other people as reflections of our own personhood?
What I want to address tonight really is the absolute necessity of
religious education. Now, when I mention that term, the first thing that
comes to your mind in Sunday School when you were seven years old. That
is not what I mean, though that very well may be an important ingredient.
So religious education, I would define as the process of developing the
spiritual dimension of personhood and relating those dimensions to other
dimensions of life that make up our selfhood. We generally assume that
religious education ends with adolescence. When kids get old enough to
say I do not want to go to Sunday School, I do not want to go to church,
we assume that that is the end of the process of religious education. And
regrettably, for most of us that was the end of our religious education.
Religious education ought to be an ongoing process that speaks to the
needs of every phase of life, that addresses itself at every stage of
life, at every juncture of life. So I am pleading the cause of religious
education tonight because I think this community does a rather poor job in
that area and it is not the fault of churches. I believe, in fact, in
studying the root, the offerings in religious education in all of the
churches in our community, I really honestly believe there are many more
resources in our community, in every community of faith, than are being
taken advantage of by our community. In other words, there is a lot more
here for you than you are taking advantage of. I know quite probably you
folks in here are not the ones I ought to be preaching at. Mr. Kelly
chose not to, but I will choose to preach at you a little bit tonight.
Let me pause and recommend a book, and I am not pushing John Claypool's
book. I do not have an interest, nor do I have any stock in his
publisher. I have read voluminous tomes on religious education and the
religion of psychology and this tiny little book is worth more than all of
them probably put together because of the concise way in which Claypool
addresses precisely what I want to address tonight. And I recommend this
little bitty book to you very highly. There are tasks which religious
education must accomplish at each of the stages of life. I want to
address just briefly the four major stages of life and address religious
education. St. Madeline's is involved in religious education. That term
is very broad but religious education needs to be plugged in at each one
of these important junctures of life. Now, if there is a psychologist or
sociologist, and I know there is a sociologist among us, they are going to
say, well, there are a lot more than four stages of life. If you want me
to talk about eight I can, but we will run out of time. So we will talk
about four, childhood being the first.
Gordon Cosby has said that the primary responsibility of any parent is to
enjoy his children. Now to those of us who grew up in a rather Puritan-
informed background, that grates against the conscience. We expect
children to be seen and not heard. We do not tend to enjoy our children,
we just kind of tolerate them. But Cosby says the most important thing a
parent can do for his children is to enjoy them. I believe that is an
important task of religious education, to communicate to children God's
delight in them. The message of scripture, I believe, is that when God had
completed creation, he pronounced it good. Now we are not arguing
evolution nor the precise way in which God chose to bring creation into
being. I frankly do not know, and I do not think it is really relevant.
The important thing is that at each stage God looked at what he had done
thus far, and said, "It is good." Now somewhere along the line, somebody
screwed up and it was not God. Our responsibility is to communicate God's
delight in those around us who are relatively knee-high. The church
sometimes has to compensate for the failure of others to do that,
including parents. There are some times when parents simply do not
communicate delight and the church, or religion in general, must
compensate for the failure of others. We must also call forth from our
children their unique gifts and talents to give them something that is
theirs, something about which they can feel good and proud.
Second is the stage of adolescence. The noted psychiatrist Erich Fromm
says that neurosis itself is, in the last analysis, a symptom of moral
failure. Now that is a pretty shocking statement coming from a
psychiatrist. Psychiatrists do not usually tend to talk in religious
terms and moral failure is a religious term if ever there was one. Our
responsibility as religious educators at that juncture we call adolescence
is to teach the adolescent, first of all, to accept responsibility for his
or her own actions. It is what Claypool calls stepping back without
walking away. It is giving them a sense of freedom without leaving them
with no support system. In other words, we try to provide for them a
basis of moral decision-making. I am not sure we are doing that very well
these days, folks. In fact, I am relatively sure we are not doing that
very well. We must provide for our adolescents a laboratory, if you will,
in which they can experiment with decision-making. But at the same time
we have got to be there to provide them with support and interpretation
when they blow it, which they most certainly will. That is a primary
responsibility that we the community must bear in terms of the religious
education of our teenagers.
The third point, or stage of life, is adulthood. Our primary
responsibility there in educating ourselves, those of us who are adults
and others who will be adults, is to help span the gap that always exists
in all of our lives and in the world around us between what is and what
ought to be. There is generally a wide gap between reality and the idea.
And one of the important tasks we have in adulthood is to bridge that gap
and teach others to do so. There are basically three frontiers of life in
which that must happen. In terms of our work, vocation, calling,
relationships with significant other people in our lives, and also
ourselves, we must bridge the gap between what we are and what we ought to
Finally, the point in life we call senior adulthood. Dag Hammarskjold,
whom some of you are adult enough to remember, served the world
faithfully through the United Nations and was also a very dedicated
Christian. He had this to say: "For all that has been, thanks. For all
that will be, yes." I think the task of religious education to those who
are in this stage of life or this period of life called senior adulthood
is to teach them to say yes to all of life, to life's beginning and its
maturing and its blossoming and bearing fruit and to its ending. You
know, by coming to grips with death and the fears that are related to
death, we really overcome those things which tie us to this life, those
things which tie us to materiality. So we must provide for these folks, a
source of hope. We must provide for them a framework in which they are
able to define what life really meant and means and will mean. We must
focus, and help them focus, on being. You know, the great emphasis in our
society is on doing, on getting, on accomplishing. Our senior adults need
to be focused into being. Being grandparents and being wise. And being
comfortable with being. Most of us who are younger would have a great
deal of trouble just being and that is a task that we need to work on, but
we definitely need to assist them in accomplishing it.
Finally, to end my sermon, I want to say in all sincerity, I do not
believe that we as a community are doing a very good job of any of this.
But the weakest link in the chain is, I believe, that we are not
effectively giving our young people the basis for moral decision-making.
The young people in our community do not seem to have a standard, a
framework on which to hang decisions. They do not seem to have the
consciousness that circumstances are always related to other
circumstances, that decisions are always followed by ramifications, and it
is not their responsibility to discover that through trial and error.
First, it is our responsibility to take them through the experiences of
life and provide for them this framework on which to make decisions.
I want to close with some scripture. I am not going to get into the
Bible. Forgive me. Unapologetically, I read from the book of Hebrews.
We do not know who wrote it. We assume probably Paul did. But the
writer, whoever he was, was addressing a group of Christians who
apparently were having a great deal of trouble moving into the next stage
of spiritual maturity and so he says to them, "About this we have much to
say which is hard to explain since you have become dull of hearing. For
though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach
you again the first principles of God's word. You need milk, not solid
food. For everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the work of
righteousness for he is a child, but solid food is for the mature, for
those who have their faculties trained by practice to distinguish good
Let me close with this admonition to all of us here: "Therefore, let us
leave the elementary doctrines of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying
a foundation of repentance from dead works." Case closed.
TC: Thank you very much. Mrs. Marilyn Escue.
ME: The question that I was given was fairly specific, and that was what is my
vision for the future of the churches in Alachua. I will have to say that
my comments are rooted in my personal belief and when I see a vision I see
it through my eyes, I do not see it through anybody else's eyes. Jesus
Christ is my personal Lord and Savior. I believe the Bible is the very
Word of God. The Word of God says that there is one mediator between God
and man and that is Jesus Christ. The Lord says the way is narrow and
straight that leads to life and there are few that find it. The way that
leads to destruction is broad. So here is my narrow viewpoint: My vision
for the future is that the church, or the body of Christ, would be the
glorious church which is without spot or wrinkle for which Christ will
soon return. My vision requires among us in Alachua a spiritual renewal,
and to speak of renewal is to speak of the quality of relationships that
we have to several entities, and I am going to discuss some of the
relationships in order of their priority. I was not asked to tell how to
accomplish this vision, but I do have a couple of ideas.
The most important of our relationships is that relationship to God. And
as Christians we know from the Bible that unless a man is born again, he
cannot see the kingdom of God. You have to be in Christ in order to be a
new creature, and I think it would be absolutely wonderful even if just
the people who are in our churches, all the people who were in the
churches, knew this truth and had the assurance that they had a right
relationship with God. John said this is how we know that he lives in us.
We know by the spirit that he has placed in our hearts. That is how we
know. If all the people in the churches knew there would be no
hypocrites, there would be no pretense, there would be no one trying to
earn their way into God's favor. They would know they were born again and
were in the right relationship with God. Only when we have His spirit
within us can we then truly worship Him as He said we must, which is in
spirit and in truth.
My vision is that the Body of Christ would hunger and thirst for
righteousness, to seek Him daily in Bible study and prayer, not to be
complacent but continually fine-tuning our obedience to His word. The
central focus in the lives of Christians would be to mature in Christ and
to develop the fruits of the spirit that Brother Kelly has slipped in
on you, like love, joy, peace and the others. It is in Galatians, Chapter
Five, if you want to read it.
The second most important relationship, really, is your relationship to
yourself. If you deal with the first, the chances are very good that you
are going to have a good relationship with yourself because God is love
and when you know His love, you have the love for yourself that you need.
The third relationship is our relationship with our families, and Brother
Sherouse has dealt some with that. We need to apply biblical principles
to our families. We need to teach this in the churches for successful
family life. Our children should be raised with a balance of love and
discipline. As mates, we should prefer one another in love. I will have
to tell you so honestly, humbly, I do not do all these things. Wives
should nag less and submit more. Husbands would be tender and take the
leadership role in the home, especially in spiritual matters. The church
needs to offer opportunity for discussion of these family problems. So
often we hide them, we do not even talk about them with people who are
supposed to be our friends. Yet they are rampant, they are everywhere.
We all have them. I think the church is the place to teach a family how
spiritually to live according to God's way. To bring these things into
the open so that they can be discussed and dealt with and not hidden, not
to have everyone feel like they are the only one who has problems.
The next area of relationship is our relationship to the church, or within
the church, our relationship to each other within the Body of Christ, the
relationship to one another. In Christ's words, we should love one
another as He loves us. And that is a lot of love. We need, within the
churches, to forgive wrong and to ask forgiveness. We need to say what is
edifying to one another. We need to have more prayer than gossip. We
need to honor and support our preachers and not murmur against them. We
need where there are denominational differences, to deem those differences
less important than the common denominator of our Lord and Savior, Jesus
Christ. We need to have the love that Mr. Lawson spoke of, that crosses
and even erases racial lines. I will say this, I have been to a black
church here in Alachua and I was treated like a queen, absolutely like a
queen. And that puts a lot of people to shame that are the same color I
Finally, under the relationship to the church, the spiritual gifts
that God has given the church for its edification will be allowed to
operate freely. God has given gifts to the church that we need. They are
in Corinthians 12-14. I am not ashamed of the Bible. I believe it is
God's word. We need to share the love of Christ through our word and our
deed. If we believe they are bound for hell, we need to love them, and
tolerance is a fine word, love is a better word. But that love, for a
Christian, should in some way demand evangelism. If you believe with all
your heart that a person is going to be assigned to an eternal death it is
obligatory for you to tell the person you believe they are wrong.
We should attempt to welcome and embrace newcomers in this community. A
lot of people who come to this community feel that it is a cold community
and they have a great sense of isolation. I think the church could do
something about that. Jesus said he came to heal the broken-hearted and
to set captives free. We should try to be the ones to go to help the one
who is hurting by bringing them to the one who can help them. We need to
end hatred and conceit against any human being.
This is a vehicle that might help to accomplish some of these aims. The
ministers will have to forgive me for being so free with their time, but I
have appointed them as a committee to enact all of these goals. We need
an active, non-exclusive ministerial association that is goal-oriented. I
have listed a few things that might be goals for the ministerial
association: To unite in prayer and have their churches fast and pray for
revival. To act as a support group for one another. To cooperate in
obtaining and sharing family and marriage improvement films and seminars.
(I will add in what Brother Sherouse has said about education. The
ministerial association could certainly cooperate in that realm.) To pool
counseling resources for individual and family problems. To practice and
preach love and reconciliation within and among the churches. To promote
inter-church fellowship through special events such as gospel singing,
Christmas caroling. Easter sunrise services. To assess and meet the
needs of the poor in the community, of need that exists beyond government
assistance that is received, and I believe it does. To organize or
encourage a Welcome Wagon being formed to greet newcomers in the
community. To maybe work in cooperation with the government or civic
clubs in that effort, and to participate in government decisions of a moral
In summary, my vision is that Jesus will hear from Alachua fervent prayers
for spiritual renewal, that He will answer with an outpouring and an
annointing of the Holy Spirit to convict us of sin and lead us into all
truth. I pray that we will give God the pleasure of our being a vibrant
church that practices his royal law of love and gives heartfelt praise to
Jesus Christ our Lord.
TC: Mrs. Leoris Richardson.
LR: Tonight we have heard various groups praising God on religion. I was
sitting here listening to all the beautiful remarks, and was thinking,
just what will happen tomorrow. Tonight we are united. What about
tomorrow, Saturday? Some of us go to church on Saturday. What about
Sunday? Will we be divided then? I feel, and I guess I am hitting upon
Christianity here, maybe that is my topic. I feel that Christianity means
Christ-like. It is not denominational. It is not prejudiced in any way.
It is freedom. Yet we as adults bring up our children in our own faith,
and I think this is what we should do. We should guide them, and I guess
this is the only way we can bring them up to our own faith. By living our
lives by examples and precepts. This is what we do when we baptize our
children. We take that vow that we are bringing our children up by our
lives and our precepts. But what are our children seeing in us? Are they
seeing love as has been brought out tonight? Are they seeing hate?
Christ-like parents? All of this helps to make up what Reverend Sherouse
has said pertaining to Christian education. If we bring up our children
in our precepts, then I am sure that we will not have to address them in
the later years, as he said, from childhood to adulthood. We would, as
you say, "Bring up a child in the way that it will go. In later years it
will not depart." I am sure that we all have varied from our path at
sometime or another. When you are very young you go to church and you get
so tired of getting up and you know that you have to go because your
parents expect you to go. Teenagers start breaking away, especially when
we get out from our parents' homes. We say, "Oh boy, we do not have to go
to church this morning!" So we sort of have a breaking away. If we have
guided our children in the right precepts of our parents, I feel that they
will probably leave the path, but they will not get lost. They will
probably stay away for a little while, most teenagers do this. We have
done little things, and we did not go to church that Sunday, but we did
not get out there and get lost. I am thinking that perhaps it is the
parents who have lost the way.
I was brought up in the Methodist Episcopal Church. It later became
United Methodist. We were asked the question many, many times, what do
we mean by "united" when we are not? Are we really united? Are we united
in words? Are we united as a group? What will happen if Blacks will come
into the First Methodist Church and join there? How would you feel?
Would you like that? What happens when we have Race Relations Sunday? We
do not get the people from First Methodist because they will not come. We
do not get the people from First Baptist because they do not come. We get
people from other denominations. Years ago, we had a service that we
called "The North will come South and the South will go North." In that
they did not know what church they were going to. At that particualr
time, we did have white ministers coming into black communities and this
is educational for some. I think if we are to progress in this community
we have to be united, we have to be what we say we are. We have to work
as a Christian group. Our children see that in us. We are saying to our
children you must love, you must be this, you must be that, but yet they
are seeing us as divided parents. We do not have fellowship together.
We do not speak to our fellowman the next day. We see this within the
church. So this keeps them away from church. They are sort of mixed up
as far as what religion really is. As simple as he says, love. Why can
we not love one another? Why can we not show this to our children, as
what brought out in his sermon, as he called it. What would really happen
if all of us got together on one particular day, it does not have to be
Sunday, and just unite ourselves and forget color? And tonight, what a
beautiful sound it was to have all of you sing "Amazing Grace." No one
knew what color we were if they were outside the door. So why can we not
get together as one and unite and try and praise God and be what we say we
are, Christians? I am sure the Alachua community would progress, we would
be a better community. I think if we put God first in our lives, all the
other things will follow.
WF: I had talked to Ms. Burgess about this before and I said it kind of got me
curious about the history of Alachua. I had a copy of that, but I forgot
to bring it. My named is Reverend Willie Frazier. I just finished school
at Emory University School of Theology in Atlanta. We were discussing in
school some of the same things you are facing here. I got a chance to
speak at a white church on the Georgia border a week ago Thursday, and
thank God I have a chance to tell you. First of all, I am a
fundamentalist. If God said it, I believe it, and that is the way it is.
I wish to God I had time to go into all the details and tell it like I
would like for you to really see it. First of all, will you open the
Bible to the tenth chapter of Romans? I believe in the word. I think I
will point out that word briefly. "Brothers, my heart desires for you
that you might be. ." what? Read it out for everybody to hear it.
NS: This is a Revised Standard, okay? "Brothers, my heart's desire and prayer
to God for them in Israel is that they may be saved." How far do you want
me to go?
WF: A little further. Read that part loudly.
NS: "I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God but it is not
enlightened, for being ignorant. .."
WF: For being ignorant of what?
NS: Of righteousness.
WF: And having established their own righteousness and forsaken the
righteousness of God. That is where the hang-up is. You want to do your
thing instead of God's thing. God gives us a choice. In the book of
Deuteronomy, he says, "Choose you this day who you will. ." what?
Serve. And it points out according to the actions that the majority has
chosen another god. He says, "Thou shall have no other gods." A king
must have a throne, and his subject is his people and his laws. God is
King of Kings and we violate His laws. Now there is a choice between life
or death. We are making a bad choice. Since the beginning of time, the
expressed opinion of people is what we use. Whether you are going to go
your way or go my way. But it is said, "Choose you this day whom you will
serve." I sat here and shed tears when I remembered speaking of Alachua
back in the 1940s. Mr. Eddy had a grocery store. I was working my way
through high school. The people used to bring over groceries before
daylight in the morning and unload it right here in Alachua and nobody
bothered it. And then I came down with Mr. Eddy when we opened at
7:30. We had a time putting in all that stuff. What that was showing me
was that honesty was in Alachua at that time. But you put it out there
You have to make daily decisions in life. The Prodigal Son had to make a
what? A decision! And he said I will rise up and go to my father and I
will confess that I have sinned. In the book of Deuteronomy, look what
has happened in America. You need to read the Bible and leave a lot of
these old comic books alone because he said, I am frank. I am just like
coffee. I am not going to put any water in it. And God wants us to be
firm, and to speak the truth, is that not right? For that is what saves
Last but not least, let's speak of values. Do you know what makes our
children cry? Nobody will listen to them. I wish that a lot of old folks
could be resurrected from the dead and brought back. When they said, "Sit
down," what happened? We sat. But now we say, "If you feel like it, sit
down." Discipline is what we need throughout the whole country.
Discipline. We need to have guidelines and stand firm by those
guidelines. One of the problems we have now is that every day we see on
our television the word "forecast." As I look down the road what do I
see. It hurts to see people playing church, playing Christian, and not
being sincere. One writer said, "Lord, Thou hath the power to make me
clean." And he did. That is where the problem is. I think of Zaccheus in
a situation like this, and what the people thought of him. He did not
have any idea that day, as badly as he wanted to see Jesus, that He was
going to stop under the same tree and call to him. That man was all "shook
up" as Presley would say: Come down, today! We need to come down. If we
are going to say what Kennedy said in his lifetime, "Think not what America
can do for you, but what you can do for America," we need to get together
and cut out these little indifferences. It is sad. All these cities in
the South had a railroad track dividing the black from the white. We
tolerated it, all these divisions, as they increased taxes and everything
for better education. Well, what he is saying is true. A religious
education, from Bible study and prayer, is important. When has your child
said his prayers before he went to bed? Oh, no! People will not
interrupt their hotdog for their own children. They are concerned about
it, but who will be there when the children get up? And what caused all
these jailhouses to be full? The lack of discipline.
AB: Thank you, Reverend. Deacon Lawson had a meeting at his church, so we
have to excuse him at this point.
CL: I am very sorry, but I must go.
TC: Okay, now I would like to turn to our local historian, Mr. Arthur Spencer.
AS: Thank you. After hearing all these people talk up here, I feel I will
have a hard time saying anything significant. But I have always been
interested in my subject. When I was a teacher, I was a history teacher
and I always like that best. When I was an assistant principal, I always
liked to gravitate by those history classes if I had a chance, and I would
listen, and maybe say something, and I always enjoyed it. Now, I have
always been very interested in our own region, in our own part of the
state, and I have also been very interested in our part of the nation. We
have had a lot of faults. We have had a lot of good things to be proud
of. We live right on the southern edge of the South. When you pass San
Felasco Hammock coming this way, there is a great difference between this
and cosmopolitan Gainesville. We have always been right here on the
southern edge of the South, and this is what [pointing our points on map]
we call the south part of Florida, it kind of extends down through the
interior, down around the lake and back up, and we get the strip city on
each coast. It is quite different from this northern part that extends
down through the middle. Now, one of the things that just anybody who
studies it will say is that, well, they have a name for it. If you hear
people from other parts of the country talk about us, what do they call
us? Well, they call us Crackers and Rednecks, and I can understand ater
being out in the sun, where a lot of that comes from. They call us the
Bible Belt. We might not think of it that way, but they call it that and
if there is anything that ties us together, it is the adoration that
Southerners, black and white, have for the churches, and I think it goes
right from West Texas, right on down coming east through Mississippi, down
through the southern part of Florida, this part of the South, and on up to
the Mason-Dixon Line. And I think we ought to be proud of it, and we
ought to think about it, and we ought to have our children educated about
our own churches.
I was hoping that somewhere there would be collected here some more
information about the various churches. I would like to know. I have
been hearing all my life about the St. Matthews Church and what an old
church that was. I was hoping there would be something here that I could
get my hands on, that somebody would have written a little bit about that
church that I could read. I have always heard my father say, "That is one
of the oldest churches in the community," every time we would pass by.
Maybe you have done all you need to do, maybe spent all the time you ought
to spend with it, but if you have not spent some time with it, get
somebody to write you a good church history. Like Reverend Frazier says,
you ought to get with those old folks, and if you do not have a taped
conversation with them, or have not written down some of the things they
have got to say, you ought to do it in a hurry. If you have not done it,
if you let some valuable people go without doing that, you ought to get
with their daughters and sons and talk about the things that they have
told them. Those things ought to be recorded. I think if you do that,
you find out things for the very first time.
I am going to start now with the early 1820s, after another part of
Florida History had ended and we had become kind of a no man's land. Then
the United States acquired Florida, I am going to start there. From the
very firt settlement at old Newnansville, you will find that the religion
and churches were the unifying part of everything that happened. Now
let's look at what happened there. Think about how things have changed.
Think about how much the schools have changed. The schools have changed an
awful lot. We have had integration. We do not have any reunions of old
Alachua High School any more. It has changed.
But the church has not changed. The church body and the people that are
in it go right on through. The families actually change. Children grow
up and move away, but the church family stays with you. The businesses
change. Think how much the farming business has changed, and as we brought
out earlier, how much the community has changed downtown. Think how
different people react to business. There again, the churches have not
changed all that much. The church and the association with the church are
one of the things that stay with you. Of course, I like my church, but
there is one thing I worry about. And that is the fact that we change
preachers so often. We change preachers awfully fast. I think it has
been a really valuable thing that in the white community here, we have had
one or two preachers like Reverend Copeland, that a lot of times we have
had a funeral at the Alachua Church, and we would have to call him over so
he could say something, because the preacher there did not know much about
it. He had just gotten appointed, and he might not have been there very
long. These ministers that stay with a church, understanding about the
community, they do so much. We ought to pay a lot of attention to them
and give them a lot more credit and place a higher value on them than we
do. Along that line, I was thinking about Preacher Gordon. Since he is
over in Gainesville, he stayed around so long, he knew more people in
Alachua than most of the preachers over here did. He actually did. He
had been in the country so long and knew so many people here.
Young people do need something to tie on to and I hope that there will be
more interchange among the ministers and churchpeople and the schools in
the future because a lot of times the ministers and the people in the
churches could help us solve those problems in the schools. Because
those youngsters do need something to tie into. They need discipline. We
need to talk with them about right and wrong. There ought to be more
getting together, more exchanging of ideas, and more cooperation in all
these matters. Like one of the things that we sing in our churches,
"Blessed be the tie that binds," and that tie ought to be appreciated and
we ought to use it on a more regular basis. Thank you.
AB: I am going to say just a few words of summary, but they are really aimed
at getting you in the audience to talk a little bit. So if they sound a
little bit harsh and sound a little bit like a challenge, they are,
becuase I want to hear what some of you have to say at this point.
Just listening to different people who have sat on the panel this evening,
I have noticed several things. One, maybe things are not so great here in
Alachua in terms of religion and churches. The question of race has come
up several different times. It came up in terms of the past, in terms of
the railroad tracks, in terms of the lack of fellowship, in terms of the
lack of a ministerial association that crosses racial lines. I would like
to hear people talk from the audience a little bit about that issue as it
is unique to Alachua or not unique to Alachua.
The second thing that I heard listening to different people talk, is that
the teenagers, the young people, the adolescent people leaving their homes
are in some really serious trouble here. They do not want to hear this
any more. They have heard it a lot. What is church to them? Why is it
that church is not worth going to, is not worth participating in for the
young people? Why is it the churches are made up of older people and not
younger people? It seems like there is a real problem here in reaching
them in any way.
Thirdly, another question or point I see happening here in Alachua is that
the churches are over here and the schools are over here and the
businesses are over here and the families are over here and they do not
seem ever to come together. So there are families having some real
trouble, people with their marriages, people with their kids, people with
their parents, all kinds of family problems, but they do not feel like
they can go and talk with people in their church. There are people
worried aobut what is going to happen with business and yet they do not
seem to be able to talk to the church. There are people talking about the
school and the problems in the schools, and yet the schools have no
control over whether or not the schoolchildren come to churches. It seems
like there is a lack of connection between some of institutions here,
between the churches and the schools and so forth.
The newcomers are another issue. We seem to have newcomers in terms of
some of our ministers and reverends, but how aobut those newcomers coming
into the town? Why is there no Welcome Wagon? Why isn't there some way
for new people to feel a part of Alachua? Let me stop here and ask people
first from the audience to respond a little bit to those kinds of
questions and then panel members can address the people in the audience.
FW: One of the things that I have noticed in our churches, and I am talking
about Negro churches, black churches, is our young people seem to be
looking for an opportunity to say and do those things that they want to
do. And we are not giving them a chance to say or take a part in the
activities of our churches. This is one of the things that I have
AB: Would somebody on the panel like to respond to that?
AS: I talked with our preacher about it. I have just had teenagers coming
along and we have lacked programs for our youth in our church and I think
your point is well taken. We need more things for the youth, and we ought
to be giving them more responsibility and doing it in a way so that we can
do what Reverend Sherouse said, to let them know what to do whenever they
have to make a decision. Let them know how to deal with religious and
moral decisions. We need more help on that.
AB: Mr. Kelly?
JK: At the church that I go to, they are making what looks like an effort, in
that they are having the young people read the scripture, and even letting
some young people take up the collection and letting the young people lead
the singing. Some of the things that we seem to think it takes a grown
person to do, a high school student can do too. It is not hard. It is
just a matter of doing it.
AB: It seems like some of the young people could be invited out to Union
JK: Now let me say one thing about that since you brought it up. Out there, I
said we had a prayer meeting before we went in. In that prayer meeting, I
do not know what the different religions were. There was a little bit of
everything. This is just prison. In the prison about eighty percent of
them are black. So when a person is down, he is either sick or he has
been to the depths and he cannot do a thing in the world, and he has tried
everything at that time. Sometimes God uses this thing of beating a
person down, so they will turn to God. I have got some of the sweetest,
dearest black friends in the world in that prison. I do not have many
outside except some of my neighbors, but in that prison many of them write
to me. Then they get out and I hear from some of them. You know, they
have always talked about us Catholics not reading the Bible much. You do
not have to read too much of it, you do not even have to know all of the
commandments, because the Lord boiled it down to two little simple ones
for us to cover it all. You do not need to know six, seven, eight, nine,
ten and eleven. Just know to love the Lord your God, and to love your
neighbor. And if you love you neighbor, you are not going to steal from
him, you are not going to pick up those groceries in front of the store
out there. You are not going to say nasty things about him. You are not
going to persecute him, and you are not going to segregate him. So, we do
not need to know the whole Bible word for word.
AB: Thanks Mr. Kelly.
JM: I would like to just address a couple of statements to a couple of these
points here. [Joe Mager is the local Hare Krishna representative]
According to the Bhagavad Gita, the difference between one living entity
and the other is actually very superficial. If we are talking about
discrimination among racial boundaries, to actually visualize one and
actually perceive another person in terms of that body that they are
wearing so to speak, just as if you look at some person when they have
certain types of clothes on that are not particularly appealing to you,
and you have some prejudice against those particular clothes. So in a
similar way, one can have a particular prejudice against a certain color
body that one may be wearing. But underneath, the soul is exactly the
same, regardless of what color the body may be. That is just one point.
We find that people in different colored bodies seem to congregage in
different areas and form their own religious system. When actually, God
never intended that. In other words, He intended that we simply have the
one absolute understanding that we are all the soul within the body and
that we are all part and parcel of God.
The second point is, I was very much encouraged by Mrs. Escue's
determination and obviously her rigid practice of her religion because
there is a very distinct difference between that and someone practicing
religion casually. If someone practices their religion rigidly and it is
actually a bona fide religion, not something that was actually concocted
out of someone's fertile imagination, but something divinely inspired,
something God has actually disseminated to the Earth. If that religion is
practiced rigidly, then that person will experience a confirmation within
his heart and the spiritual experience, a spiritual taste, as we call it,
a taste that will actually emanate from that person. Then, they will
actually want to tell others of that taste and of their experiences. This
religion is meant to be practiced rigidly, not casually. Religion, no
matter what it may be, if it is a genuine religion, should be practiced
very rigidly and the experience will be there. It will also transfer that
experience from parent to child.
To address a third question, if someone wants to actually discipline their
child, the child must see that the parents are actually experiencing a
real, spiritual life, and the child will also take up that spiritual life.
The child will automatically become disciplined.
AB: Thank you.
SA: I want to say something from an objective view since I am not part of this
town. A lot of people are talking about the churches unifying. I am
going to throw out a question. Everybody is so involved in his own church,
what could you do to try to get people involved in unifying? Form that
committee with the preachers? Because we can go back tomorrow and
everybody is going to get involved in his own church and it never really
will take place. That is why there is no unification, because everybody
is still working in his own church Everyone is not meeting together to
find out what they can do as a community.
AB: Now Reverend Lawson did say there was a ministerial association.
LR: Trying to address the organizations that were developed. We call it
"togetherness," where twelve churches of different denominations come
together and worship on one Sunday out of the month.
FW: I think that a ministerial alliance, a ministerial organization, would be
one of the strong things that could help Alachua, and that is something we
do not have.
NS: I had planned to address this point at some time. I was going to bar the
doors if necessary and make this point before you left tonight. I have
been here, as you know, it will be four years in January. And as Mr.
Spencer indicated, I have thus far outlived my contemporaries at the
Methodist Church three times over, Presbyterian Church twice. So, in my
brief tenure I am the senior of those three. But in recent months, since
George Lutz has come on the field at he Methodist Church and Snow Donmoyer
has been in the Presbyterian Church nearly a year, we are just in the
initial stages of pulling ourselves together. It is our intention in the
very near future to do everything we can to pull all of the ministries of
the community, black, white, or purple together, that we might begin to
strengthen some of the ties that exist.
I want to address the issues that seem to be recurrent in all of these
groups, and that is the apparent racial tension in the community. I come
from this part of the state. My roots are between here and Palatka.
Really, my family's roots are in Campville. My great-grandfather came
here and married my grandmother right out of medical school at Emory. He
was the only doctor in the area that would treat blacks, and often paid
the price for that. I am saying that to say to you that my personal
roots, my personal dealings, may be different from those of some of the
folks in this part of the state. When Martin Luther King was shot, I was
still in high school. I was a junior in high school, and I called the
county judge of Putnam County and told him that the president had ordered
that flags be flown at half mast, and ours was not. I said that also to
say my feelings may be different from those feelings of some whites in
I sincerely believe, because of the length of time I have been here, and
even though it may seem brief to you, there is more unity in this
community than we are seeing evidence of. I believe that there are
greater ties between blacks and whites in this community than you are
aware of. Now some of you have lived here all your life and you probably
disagree, but it may be that my perspective is a little more objective
because I have been here less time. In the last few years we have had
black children in our Sunday School and in our Vacation Bible School. We
have had blacks in our worship services, and this had been met with no
resistance at all at our church. I frankly do not feel it would be like
that at other white congregations. Now, I believe that as we begin to
pull this community of ministers together in this community, you are going
to discover as a community that our ties are much stronger than you
thought they were. That is just my personal conviction.
LR: I have a question. I do not know how many ministers are in the building.
I think because you are young, that makes a difference. Some years ago we
had some ministers, maybe this is the reason they do not stay very long,
that did address the issues you addressed and then they had to leave,
white ministers. As far as pulling together, they did not, and because of
that personalities differed and they had to go. I do not know if that is
the reason why you lose your ministers so often. However, I do feel that
the leadership is the key issue as far as ministers are concerned. This
is the issue that will help pull this together. I feel that if there is a
member in your church, no matter how rich they are, and you will miss
their money. If they cannot unite, have fellowship, worship together, and
sit in your church and you preach to them every Sunday morning, and they
cannot accept a different person in their congregation, they do not need
to be there.
TC: Well, I think the whole point of this series of panel discussions and
interchanges of ideas is to try and get us to know ourselves better, and
through that to know our community better. I think if things like that
are brought out in these workshops, maybe we are going to see some of the
positive things go forward in the future that we all really should
LR: I am going to relate one thing to you. Working with a group of clubs at
the high school, a young man, a coach brought out a point in a very
touching situation to us. One night after a meeting he stated that he was
taught that blacks were different from whites. And he believed it up
until recently when he had found out that they were the same. As he
brought out, they are all the same. Different colors of skin, but they
are all the same. He said that his father actually taught him that you
cannot worship with them, you cannot go out with them. You cannot do
this, this is the problem. You go to school together, and as I said,
young people will really work together. On the elementary level, the kids
are working together, playing together. They go to school together in the
community, and as Mr. Kelly says, they are neighbors. Why can we not be
neighbors? If you can send your money over to a foreign country for a
mission, why can we not help the little black kid or the little white kid
that are in need? I think we forget what mission is. I think we forget
what Christianity is. We look too far. Yet there is a problem right
AB: I think we had better stop. We have gone a little bit over our time, but
I wanted to give people a chance to talk.