Stand Up: Our Parents Are Passing

“Jean Louise, stand up. Your father is passing.”

These few simple words from “To Kill a Mockingbird” are among the movie quotes I carry with me. Jean Louise (Scout) Finch is sitting with Rev. Sykes, an African-American minister, at the trial where her father Atticus is defending the falsely accused Tom Robinson. At one point, Atticus turns to leave the courtroom. As he does, the African-American community rises. And, encouraged by Rev. Sykes, so does Jean Louise in a statement of tribute and respect.

The quote returned to mind yesterday as I watched “Black Presbyterians: The Legacy Series” during a meeting of the Advocacy Committee on Racial Ethnic Concerns. The video features three fifteen-minute segments that tell the stories of Black Presbyterians active in the Civil Rights movement. Part I includes personal stories of oppression that shaped their lives. Part II highlights their involvement in the Civil Rights Movement. Part III focuses on the Presbyterian Church as it grappled with the moral issues that emerged from the movement.

The men and women who told their stories in this video are giants of the Church – heroines and heroes of faith upon whose shoulders we stand. Their courage and integrity and faith and hope and grace shine. Emotions washed over me – I squeezed tears from the corners of my eyes, my throat tightened, my heart leapt and cracked and soared and shattered all at the same time. And in my mind, I heard Bill Walker (who played Rev. Sykes) – “Stand up. Our parents are passing.”

Thanks be to God for their witness and for all who helped tell their story. 

Visit Black Presbyterians: The Legacy Series and find a link to order the video through Presbyterian Distribution Services.

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