One year ago, the virus was creeping its way into the country, Ahmaud Arbery was gunned down in a street in Brunswick, Georgia, and I was launching a radio show on two FM stations in that same county.
I have had a long-standing vocation to join the public conversation about religion in America, about the impact of religion on both our public affairs and our personal lives; to raise a voice—a sane, sensible voice, pushing back against the cacophony of craziness that fills the airways on one religious station after another; to be a progressive voice amidst the conservative crowd; to issue a call for inclusion, collaboration and common sense as opposed to the demand for conformity, conflict, and exclusion.
From the beautiful coastal paradise of Glynn County, Georgia, I raised my blue Baptist voice in this region of right-wing red. I launched The Meetinghouse: Conversations on Religion and American Life.
At the time, I did not know about the virus or the murder. Nor did I know of the protests for racial justice that would fill the streets of our cities last summer or the wild and crazy campaign for the White House that would result in the sacking of Congress a few weeks ago.
I didn’t know about all that, but what I know now is this: What a year it has been! What a year to be on the radio! What a year to be seventy years old!!
Yes: last March (just days after launching the radio show) I celebrated my seventh birthday, not with a bang but with a whimper, just like the many who passed personal milestones in relative calm: marriages, graduations, and the birth of children. Whither seven or seventy, we all confess: it has been a year like no other.
That was last March. This March, I am launching a television show. The Meetinghouse is moving from an audio platform to a video platform.
The Meetinghouse is joining the television initiative of Rev. Dr. Kevin Cosby of Louisville. He is pastor of St. Stephens Baptist Church and president of Simmons College of Kentucky. He is my friend and colleague in gospel work.
During the worst year we can remember, he started a television ministry! How’s that for courage and determination? He’s not yet seventy, but that still is quite an achievement!!
Now I am bringing The Meetinghouse to his St. Stephens Live initiative.
The Meetinghouse will continue to air on Thursday at 1 pm EST. But it will air primarily as a video product, and that changes the way we design and produce the show. Early on in the pandemic we began using Zoom to connect with guests. Who hasn’t been using Zoom? Two months ago, we began distributing the show also through Facebook Live (on my Facebook page).
In a sense, we have been getting ready for this transition for two months. I’ve had to learn yet another layer of digital and technical skills. I’ve had to find people to help me manage all of this. And I’ve had to invest in equipment, and materials, and travel.
As you might imagine, I’ve had to generate financial help to make this happen.
Last fall, I reconstituted The Meetinghouse Inc as a non-profit business in the Commonwealth of Kentucky. A few months later, we received our letter from the IRS declaring us a tax-exempt public charity according to Section 501(c)3 of the Internal Revenue Code. We turned the corner from that terrible, no good, very bad year and made our first appeal for support from, you, our listeners, our readers.
I am delighted to say, you have responded. From California to Carolina, from Tennessee to Texas, from Kentucky to Georgia we have received your gifts. Gifts range from $25 to $10,000! For each and every one, we give thanks.
In honor of the 70th year of my life during which I embraced a new adventure and during which you have joined me in this adventure, I am creating a Circle of Seventy! Seventy people who join with me to take The Meetinghouse to the next level, who will invest in this ministry of public advocacy of what is right and true and good.
You can be one of the Seventy!
Visit the SUPPORT page of this newsletter and website. Make your gift to The Meetinghouse. Find your place in that Circle of Seventy!!