• Will Spink
    Senior Pastor
  • Wyketa Shipman
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  • Christine Betts
    Assistant Director, Youth/Families
  • Ty Commons
    Youth & Families Intern
  • Kim Delchamps
    Administrative Assistant
  • Derrick Harris
    Assistant Pastor, Shepherding & Young Families
  • Angela Sierk
    Director, Children's Ministry
  • Niña Banta Cash
    Director, Nursery
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    Director, Community Development
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Pastor’s Note: Black History Month at Southwood?

A friend recently asked me, “Does Southwood do anything for Black History Month?” My initial response was a somewhat embarrassed, “Well, not really … maybe we should be.” But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that there are important things going on – and perhaps even more importantly, not merely because it’s February.

Now don’t get me wrong: Southwood has a long way to go in terms of racial reconciliation and building true partnership with our minority brothers and sisters; I’m not suggesting we have it all figured out. Furthermore, it’s not wrong to have a particular month set aside to highlight particular people in our society – especially when they have been mistreated and marginalized for decades.

February would be a great opportunity to come alongside lessons our kids will be learning in school about Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, and others with conversations about what the Gospel says about loving others different from us. We could learn with them about Francis Grimke, Maria Fearing, and other influential African-American Presbyterians.

But back to encouraging things going on. Later this month (Feb. 20) several of our staff and members will participate in the annual C4 Conference, where the Jackson Center will be filled with a couple hundred diverse people from across our city. We are partnering with one of our local mission partners and some minority churches in town to discuss “Who Is My Neighbor?” and learn from each other how to develop better community across racial and social boundaries uniquely in Huntsville. You’ll find more information in this issue of Branches, but it’s not too late to sign up; we would love to have you join us for this exciting event!

A couple weeks later, Southwood is hosting an event focused on building relationships, especially across cultural lines. We have been learning how vital such relationships are so we can listen, learn, and love our brothers and sisters better, and this Saturday is designed to equip us for engaging in those relationships. Tedd Offutt is coming from Atlanta to conduct this training, and I hope you’ll take advantage of this special opportunity as well.
Already I’m encouraged by conversations in our Sunday School classes and ways we’ve benefitted from minority brothers and sisters sharing their stories with us. I’m glad to see our kids developing friendships with classmates and teammates of various social classes and leading their parents into new relationships. I’m thankful for many of our members involved throughout the year with local groups seeking to deepen cross-cultural relationships.

These realities are important for us because while it can be helpful to focus for a month on “Black History,” God would have “their story” and “our story” woven together every day as a part of “His story.” See, developing inter-racial relationships is not first and foremost a social or political issue; it’s a Gospel issue. It’s an issue of loving others the way God loves them and the way God has loved us.

We’ve just spent an inspiring weekend considering the priority of Expressing Grace. We were challenged to have our experience of God’s grace transform us and compel us outward. It’s the good news of that Gospel that has sent people from Alabama to Africa, Ireland, and Peru. It’s the good news of that Gospel that RIMI wants to spread across India. It’s the good news of that Gospel that compelled the Apostle Peter to go to the Gentile Roman centurion and declare forgiveness of sins in the name of Jesus to someone whose lifestyle and history were foreign to Peter.

The Gospel sends all those people across all those great distances because it’s founded upon the grace of a God who crossed greater differences and distances to love us. It’s based upon the mercy of a God who welcomed into his life and around his table people who didn’t fit in there. It’s driven by the love of a God who united people from every tribe, tongue, language, and nation into one family because Jesus was the most important thing about all of them. May we celebrate that Gospel cross-culturally this February (and beyond).