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Faces on Faith: Overcoming barriers

By REV. LARRY L. MARSHALL - | Nov 24, 2020

PHOTO PROVIDED Rev. Larry L. Marshall

When I was 14 years old, I played baseball for an all-star team. We had a talented team and won a number of games. We were hoping to become national champions. Our next step was the regional finals held in Detroit, Michigan. We arrived the night before our big game and while checking in to our hotel, I overheard a conversation between our coach and hotel manager. It went something like this, “I have your keys and there are a couple of rooms in the back for the colored boys.” I was shocked. These were my teammates and my friends. We had played baseball together for at least eight years. Why did they have to stay in the back? We, of course, know why; they were black.

Given all the turmoil this year around raised racial tensions, one wonders how far have we come since 1962. Recently, I have been part of a small group reading and discussing a book entitled “Be the Bridge; Pursuing God’s Heart for Racial Reconciliation,” by Latasha Morrison. In 2016, she started a movement based on honest conversation between ethnic groups. Be the Bridge works to break down racial barriers and give new hope of reconciliation. The non-profit organization has equipped more than 1,000 subgroups across five countries to serve as ambassadors for racial reconciliation.

Matthew 5:9 says, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called Children of God,” and Matthew 7:12: “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”

Barriers and intractable situations abound in our fallen world. Some years ago while serving a church near Youngstown, Ohio, teachers in our school system went on strike. The schools were shut down, the teachers were picketing and our community was divided. A mediator was called in to help the two sides come to a resolution. After a couple of days of no progress, I called the superintendent and invited all parties to use the church for their deliberations. They took us up on our offer.

Some of our leaders decided to provide food and beverages and we opened our Sanctuary for prayer. After 24 hours a resolution was reached. In our parking lot were teachers, students and parents waiting for updates. It was heartwarming when everyone clapped and cheered at the good news. Certainly most of the credit goes to those who in the room negotiating, but I also believe the church provided an atmosphere of love and encouragement. That is what it means to be the bridge. Whether it is race, politics or family, being the bridge makes it possible to overcome all barriers.

Barriers divide and create fear, anger and mistrust. Let’s be a bridge which can lead to a breath of fresh air.

The Rev. Larry L. Marshall is the pastor at the Captiva Chapel by the Sea.