And So We Rise…
April is Resurrection season for Christians as we remember Jesus being raised from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Cities and communities too have their resurrection stories and Memphis has its share. The dire Corona Virus crisis provokes reflection on how the citizens of this “iconic American city” (Amazon) have had to cope with rising and falling and rising again across the centuries.
In 1862 Memphis early became a refuge for escaped slaves after the Union Army moved in. Four years later came the cruel race riot of 1866 where Irish policemen went on a rampage and left 45 (and 2 white) dead bodies in its wake. This blow to civic peace lasted until the catastrophic Yellow Fever epidemic of 1878, which claimed 18,000 lives but forced blacks and whites to pull together briefly.
After 1878 land values plummeted. A mulatto businessman named Robert Church bought up property so fast he became the South's first black millionaire. Along the way he built parks and an auditorium so fine that it encouraged the likes of W.C. Handy and others to give birth to the blues.
And so we rose. Then, a shameless Memphis mayor ploughed Church’s home under in 1953 in revenge for the family’s political and commercial success.
By then the daughter of a prominent Memphis back pastor, Aretha, had moved with her parents to Detroit to become the “Queen of Soul.” Through music we rose. Black and white; Aretha and Elvis. Aretha echoed the great Mahalia Jackson whose stunning vocals accompanied the Atlanta funeral of Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968 after his death in a Memphis motel.
Falling and rising. The assassination of Dr. King helped send the city into an economic and social tailspin. It took years to rebuild such civic landmarks as the Orpheum Theatre and the recently renovated Sears property to become Cross-town Concourse.
Yes, a city, a community needs its resurrection stories. We all do. The challenge is to reach inside after reaching upward to meet the tests of what the Book of Ecclesiastes calls “time and chance.”
We in Memphis GCI serve the resurrected Christ. We remember him during this deadly virus since Easter is set for April 12. Working and serving alongside our brothers black and white in this challenging but ever-so-interesting city is the calling of our lives. And so we rise. We’re more in touch with each other more now through the Online Church format than ever before. Cheered by Resurrection hope and the words of a prominent preacher: “Tough times don’t last but tough people do,” under Christ we cannot fail (Romans 8:31).