It was the end of the meeting.  The Captain walked to the pulpit.  It was time to pray.

We had prayed, sang, spoken of our faith in a God who calls us to be peacemakers in a world where great forces are at work to exclude, separate, marginalize people.  Based on race, religion, class.  Now we felt good.  It was time to close in prayer.

But the Captain had something to tell us first.

He told us that God had spoken to him this afternoon.  The God who calls us to go.  To places we would not choose for ourselves.  The God of Abraham.  Moses.  Jeremiah.  Of Jesus, the only begotten Son, who came to earth from heaven.

The Captain told us of a time when he worked in Kirkwood MO.  Kirkwood is one of many communities ringing St Louis.  The Captain lived in St Louis at that time.  He is African-American.  He did not have a good experience in Kirkwood.  It was an experience of prejudice and bigotry.  In Kirkwood.

But now he lives in Kirkwood.  Irony.  The Captain was assigned by the Salvation Army to a living quarters in Kirkwood.  No, not the Army.  The hand of God.

The Captain told us that he now sees.  Racism, or open arms?  Smiles, or hard looks?  God has called him to be in Kirkwood.  Welcomed or not.  He sees what God’s doing.  God loves to send his people to go confound this beloved world.  Challenging it.  Inviting it.  Changing it.  And when we follow where he leads us we are changed, too, the Captain said.  He knew.  He had been changed.

He invited us to join him as he prayed.  We were quiet as we bowed our heads and he prayed.

After the meeting a woman came and asked me about the Captain.  She lives in Kirkwood, has for many years.  She’s white.  She wanted to speak with him.  She wanted to talk with him about what had happened years ago in her town.  It bothered her that Kirkwood meant what it did to him.  She wanted to find out what she could do.  And to let him know that she considered him her neighbor.  In Kirkwood.

I pointed to him over on the other side of the crowd.  I watched her walk toward the Captain.  Someone else came up to ask me something.

The meeting was over.  A band had played.  The Territorial Commander had preached.  Eloquent young men and women had spoken.

But I believe that the meeting of the Captain and the woman from Kirkwood made the angels sing in St Louis that afternoon.

ARC Chapel - Copy