Do you have prophets in your circle? Sure hope so! We need the cranky things!

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 Flash thinks Ethel Ware Carter is beautiful because she is—inside and out!

This week Flash and I went down the elevator from our abode on the 28th floor. You’d be amazed at the number of dogs in our building—Flash has a Napoleonic complex and is very rude to three of the big dogs but is quite the ladies’ man with a circle of small four-pawed ladies in the building. Everybody has a circle, probably many circles. Circles matter.

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Last July 4th—Flash ADORES Bella—her fluffy tail and her outfits and her attitude.  I know – rear-end sniffing looks tacky to us but is great form in Flash’s circle!

 So on Wednesday, we  walked across the street  to Second Ponce de Leon Baptist Church.  Second Ponce is a cool, inclusive, and mission-minded Baptist Church, and they have made a home for Ethel Ware and her circle, the Regional Council of Atlanta Churches.

Actually Ethel Ware and the Council is in offices with another dear friend of All Saints, Peter Wallace and the crowd at Day1. 

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Peter and Ethel Ware are circle gurus. Peter’s circle is the internet and  300 radio stations across the world and Ethel Ware’s is a circle of churches across the region and get this –   18,000 people!
Ethel Ware told Flash and me that the Regional Council of Atlanta Churches started in 1878 as a mainline Protestant all male (of course) pastors’ group.  And from the very beginning,  they were passionate about meeting human need and advocacy.  For instance these guys went to bat for NO CHILD LABOR LAWS and UNIVERSAL PUBLIC EDUCATION! Those realities didn’t just hop out of the air into our city!  A circle of people had dreams for the common good and made them happen!!

And when it came time (way past time), to integrate Atlanta, the Regional Council of Atlanta Churches put together a manifesto!!  Our rector, Frank Ross, signed it and marched and marched and wrote and preached about respecting the dignity of every human being! (We still have original copies of his sermons and almost every sermon of every preacher thereafter. Really interesting! We ought to do a little study.)

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The ministers signed as individuals but as is true of all of us, those pastors  then touched the circles around them.  Within a year, 315 Atlanta pastors signed and thousands of church members affirmed. (Not all).

In 2017, it is worth reading the points of the Manifesto of 1957 and what that circle of faithful people thought was most important—to me, still most important.

  1. FREEDOM of speech must at all costs be preserved. “Truth is mighty and will prevail.” No minister, editor, teacher, state employee, business man or other citizen should be penalized for expressing himself freely, so long as he does so with regard to the rights of others. Any position which can not stand upon its own merits and which can only be maintained by silencing all who hold contrary convictions, is a position which can not permanently endure.
  2. AS AMERICANS and as Christians we have an obligation to obey the law.
  3. THE PUBLIC school system must not be destroyed. It is an institution essential to the preservation and development of our democracy. To sacrifice that system in order to avoid obedience to the decree of the Supreme Court would be to inflict tremendous loss upon multitudes of children, whose whole lives would be impoverished as a result of such action. It would also mean the economic, intellectual and cultural impoverishment of our section, and would be a blow to the welfare of our nation as a whole.
  4. HATRED and scorn for those of another race, or for those who hold a position different from our own, can never be justified.
  5. COMMUNICATION between responsible leaders (“of the races” but you could substitute of the different political parties or the nations of the world)  must be maintained. One of the tragedies of our present situation is found in the fact that there is so little real discussion of the issues except within the separate …  groups.
  6. OUR DIFFICULTIES cannot be solved in our own strength or in human wisdom. It is appropriate, therefore, that we approach our task in a spirit of humility, of penitence, and of prayer. It is necessary that we pray earnestly and consistently that God will give us wisdom to understand His will: that He will grant us the courage and faith to follow the guidance of His spirit.

All Saints’ Vestry and many other faithful groups now meet in the Ross Room.  

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Thank you Mary Helen and Bob Miller.  Through this great meeting space and also your writings, Bob, you pass on vital, warts-and-all, transformative stories of courage and faith.
Below is Frank Ross preaching – he supported and encouraged many – including Atlanta Constitution Editor, Ralph McGill, and Judge Elbert Tuttle to courageous conscience and action, and yes a few to shaking the dust off their feet and leaving the parish.  (On my husband’s Episcopal side of the family, most Sternes stayed and the branch who left were more disturbed by the rector’s divorce.)  Frank Ross was not perfect; he was a saint, like the rest of us.

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Who are your prophets?  I thank God for Dr. J. Moody McDill of Fondren Presbyterian Church and also Governor William Winter, also of Fondren.
Frank Ross always started his letters to the parish with the words, “Dearly Beloved,” and when I became the rector of St. Andrew’s, Maryville, I copy-catted him. Because dearly beloved, that is who we are to one another.  In Christ, we are all over this world, dearly beloved.  That’s what every true prophet is teaching, writing, preaching, spreading around-the universal love of God for God’s world.

 

 

And here, on the very day Flash and I  visited, is Bishop Rob Wright, yes a prophet for our day, recording right down the hall  in the Day1 studios!

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Rob Wright is blessed to be a blessing, a circle maker and shaper. Watch him with students sometime. Always pointing toward God’s future of hope and inclusion.
After all, our diocesan motto is:

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For we are circles within circles upon circles of the One who stretched out his arms on the hard wood of the cross, encircling God’s whole, holy and broken world.

Martha +

 

 

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