Written by Patrick Barrett, Executive Director of Spiritual Formation & Missions
This week I was fortunate enough to pass through downtown Birmingham, Alabama. I only had time for a quick visit, but I took the picture above from the steps of the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute (BCRI).
I popped inside the institute to buy a few books for my children (no father returns home from a trip empty-handed) and enjoyed a moment of conversation with two wonderful ladies working in the gift store. As I stood in line to checkout, I overheard a conversation that will stick with me for quite some time.
A small group of high school students with special needs was passing through on a tour, and the guide mentioned the security risks they often face due to their work and mission. As I passed my debit card to the cashier, the tour guide concluded, “But the risk is worth it.”
In the early 1960’s, the city of Birmingham was ground zero for the Civil Rights Movement. In the picture above, you can see 16th Avenue Baptist Church’s sanctuary, the location of an infamous 1963 bombing that killed four precious young girls. You’ll also notice a statue of Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth, a pastor, civil rights leader, and passionate advocate for nonviolence. Reverend Shuttlesworth miraculously survived a bombing that destroyed his home as well as three others that targeted the church he pastored.
On one occasion, members of Reverend Shuttlesworth’s congregation were outraged after he was severely beaten. When he left the hospital, this great man urged his people to restrain their anger and said to them, “This is the price of victory.”
As Christians, we must remember that Jesus suffered and paid the ultimate price for victory – and it was Jesus’ victory over suffering and death that fueled the courage and nonviolent activism of many men and women like Fred Shuttlesworth.