The Cock Crowed No More

He has told you, O mortal, what is good;  and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness,  and to walk humbly with your God? (Mic. 6:8, NRSV)

“The story is told that many, many years ago, a young man graduated from seminary and moved to the deep South to begin his first ministry in a small town. The town had a general store and many of the men of the community would gather each morning around the old pot-bellied stove in the back of the store. The minister thought it would be good for his ministry, to build relationships, if he would join the men around the stove.

One morning, all of a sudden, the conversation stopped in mid-sentence. The minister looked up and noticed an elderly black man had come into the store. The man gathered a few things from the shelves, waited until the counter was clear of customers, walked up

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“Pot Bellied Stove” image by Katie Inglis, via Flickr, licensed under CC BY-ND 2.o

and placed his items on the counter. The owner of the store said to him, ‘What do you think you are doing?’ The elderly man said, ‘I waited my turn to purchase these items.’ The owner leaned on the counter, glaring at the old man and said, ‘It is your turn when every white person in this store is waited on. It is your turn when I say it is your turn. Now, step back from this counter.’

The elderly gentleman slowly stepped back, turned and walked out of the store. The conversation around the stove started right back up where it had left off as if nothing had happened.

The young minister waited a moment then stood up and walked out of the store. As he stood on the sidewalk, he listened. He thought he heard, off in the distance, the sound of a cock crowing. He thought of Peter on the night Jesus was arrested. He turned and saw the elderly gentleman turning the corner at the next street. He chased after him. He knew who the man was. He was Rev. Davidson, pastor of New Hope Baptist Church out on the edge of town.

When he caught up to the man he said, ‘I am so sorry for what just happened. I want to personally apologize to you for the sinfulness of my silence. Is there anything I can do?” The old man looked into the young minister’s eyes to make sure of his sincerity. He then said, ‘I would ask that you pray for me and the people of New Hope Baptist Church.’

The next Sunday, when the young minister went to the pulpit to offer the morning pastoral prayer, in the middle of the prayer, he prayed, ‘And Lord, today we pray for Rev. Davidson and the people of New Hope Baptist Church.’ There was a murmur in the congregation, ‘What did he say? Did you hear what he said?’ But nothing was said after church.

The next Sunday, during the prayer, he prayed, ‘And Lord, today we pray for Rev. Davidson and the people of New Hope Baptist Church.’ There was a meeting called after church. The Chairperson of the Board asked the pastor, ‘What is this Rev. Davidson thing in the morning prayer?’ The young minister told all who had gathered for the meeting about what had happened at the general store. Then he said, ‘As long as I am the minister of this congregation, I will pray, each Sunday, for Rev. Davidson and the people of New Hope Baptist Church.’ The meeting was adjourned.

The next Sunday, once again, he prayed, ‘And Lord, today we pray for Rev. Davidson and the people of New Hope Baptist Church.’ After worship, the Board Chair invited the pastor to another meeting.

When they were all gathered together, the Board Chairperson said, ‘Pastor, while you were out of town this week, we held a congregational meeting. A motion was made. A vote was taken. The vote was unanimous. As a congregation we are asking you . . . to invite Rev. Davidson and the people of New Hope Baptist Church to join us here for worship next Sunday.’

The next Sunday, shortly after 11:00 a.m, the doors of the church opened and in walked Rev. Davidson and the people of New Hope Baptist Church. They did not sit in the back. They did not sit in the front. The members of the church had spread out in the sanctuary so that the people of New Hope Baptist Church could spread out and sit next to the members of the congregation…

…During the closing hymn as the people lifted their voice together in song to God, the young minister and Rev. Davidson walked up the aisle together and went outside. There they stood together on the church steps. They listened and they listened and nowhere could they hear the sound of a cock crowing.”

– From the book Doing Justice in a Purple Congregation by Rev. Dr. James Ryan

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