Month: January 2018

THE DREAM LIVES ON IN ABILENE

 

 

Excerpt from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech, delivered  on Aug. 28, 1963, during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Dr. King called for an end to racism in the United States and called for civil and economic rights.

I have a dream today … I have a dream that one day
every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain
shall be made low. The rough places will be made plain,
and the crooked places will be made straight…And the
glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see
it together. This is our hope. This is the faith that I
go back to the South with. With this faith we will be
able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of
hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the
jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony
of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work
together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to
jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing
that we will be free one day.

By Loretta Fulton

Several hundred Abilenians of all races joined together Monday to celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the nation’s foremost civil rights activist who was assassinated on April 3, 1968, in Memphis, Tennessee.

The march across the MLK Jr. bridge on Abilene’s east side is held annually on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. King, a Baptist minister, was born Jan. 15, 1929, in Atlanta, and the MLK Jr. holiday is held each year on the Monday closest to that date.

Monday’s event got under way with talks by several people, including Mayor Anthony Williams, Abilene’s first African-American mayor.

“I want to encourage you to do your part to help fulfill the dream,” Williams told the assembled crowd just before they set out on the march. “Let’s all work together to make Abilene better.”

Dustin Tatro, who is a DJ for KGNZ Christian radio station and organist at St. Paul United Methodist Church, offered a prayer: “Give us, God, the courage to always be warriors for justice,” he said.

Nelson Wilson and others praised the late Claudie Royals, who died in 2008, for being the prime mover behind the march. Before Royals got involved, separate functions were held each year to observe the holiday, Wilson said. Now, everyone comes together.

“Here we are today for this gathering,” he said.

Iziar Lankford, pastor of Southwest Drive Community United Methodist Church, also cited Royals’ efforts. Lankford prayed that all Abilenians would work together for a better city. And, then he ended his prayer in a way that is tradition among African-American ministers.

“Let us all say, ‘Amen,'” he implored.

And they did.

 

 

JEWS IMPORTANT TO SETTLING AREA

By Loretta Fulton

Jewish immigrants were more than welcomed in West Texas during the late 19th and early 20th centuries–even if their religion was a mystery to most.

IMG_2450 (1)

Suzanne Campbell

A story in the Ballinger Ledger in 1911 explained, sort of, why a store in town would be closing on a Saturday. The real reason was that the owner was Jewish and that particular Saturday was part of the Jewish High Holy Days. The newspaper got the holy days right but erred in the explanation of what those holy days were about.

“This being the Jewish Christmas,” the article said.

That was one of many stories Suzanne Campbell, head of special collections at Angelo State University, shared Jan. 9 with an overflow audience attending the first meeting of 2018 of the Abilene Interfaith Council. The meeting was held in the south branch of the Abilene Public Library in the Mall of Abilene. Originally, it was scheduled for one room but flowed into two due to the crowd size.

People attending heard a humorous and insightful presentation from Campbell. She has been head of special collections at ASU for 21 years. Prior to that, she earned her master’s degree in history from the university. Her thesis was on Jewish settlers in Runnels County. 

NathanLapowski

Nathan Lapowski West Texas Collection Angelo State University

Her research into Jewish settlers in Runnels County and West Texas led to some interesting discoveries, like learning that the secretary of the treasury under John F. Kennedy, C. Douglas Dillon, was the grandson of Samuel Lapowski, a Jewish immigrant from Poland who lived in Abilene.  ​Samuel’s son Clarence Dillon, who grew up in Abilene but later moved to New York, was the father of C. Douglas Dillon. Clarence changed the family last name to Dillon, his grandmother’s maiden name.

“Lapowski sounded too Jewish,” Campbell said.

A brother of Samuel, Jacob Lapowski, lived in San Angelo and another brother, Nathan Lapowski, settled in Colorado City before moving to El Paso. Samuel and Jacob married sisters.

Jewish settlers followed the railroad from Galveston, where they arrived in large numbers from the east coast in the late 19th century, Campbell explained. Many of them took the railroad as far as it went in Texas and settled in small communities. They helped build the communities, providing labor and opening their own businesses.

“If it weren’t for immigration, we would be in a sad state of affairs,” Campbell said, “especially in West Texas.”

A Jewish family, or several families, would arrive in a West Texas community and stay. They would open their home to the next Jewish settlers, allowing them to stay long enough to absorb the culture and learn about business. Then that family would move on to the next town on the railroad, set up a home and business, and repeat the hospitality to the new arrivals.

Campbell noted that the “First Annual Report of the Agricultural Bureau of the Department of Agriculture, Insurance, Statistics, and History, 1887-88,” published in Texas, showed that in 1887, the state was home to 5,527 “Hebrews.” Of those, six lived in Taylor County (Abilene), out of a population of 4,331 and 23 lived in Tom Green County (San Angelo), with a population of 4,533. By 1928, the Jewish population in San Angelo had grown to the point that a synagogue was built.

“Today,” Campbell said, “it is one of the oldest synagogues in the state of Texas that is still in use.”

Campbell related a story that illustrated the relationship between the Christians, who dominated West Texas settlements, and the Jewish immigrants. Henry Ragsdale, a Christian businessman living in San Angelo, approached a man referred to as “Rabbi Dave,” and offered to give the Jewish settlers a lot for their house of worship. Suspicious, “Rabbi Dave” wanted to know why the sudden generosity.

Ragsdale’s explanation–Jesus was a Jew who spoke Hebrew and Jesus would be coming back.

“When he does,” Ragsdale explained, “we’re going to need somebody to translate for us.”

 

 

 

MY NEIGHBOR’S FATIH

MyNeighborsFaith

 

IF YOU GO
What: “My Neighbor’s Faith,” a study of world’s religions
When: 7 p.m. most Mondays, Jan. 22-April 30
Where: The Episcopal Church of the Heavenly Rest Gerhart Hall, 602 Meander St.
Teacher: Mark Waters, McMurry University religion professor
Cost: Free; book, “My Neighbor’s Faith,” may be purchased

SCHEDULE
Jan. 22: Introduction to the course and introduction to Hinduism
Jan. 29: Hinduism, continued
Feb. 5: Jainism and Buddhism
Feb. 12: Buddhism, conintued
Feb. 19: NO CLASS
Feb. 26: Taoism and Confucianism
March 5: Zoroastrianism
March 12: NO CLASS
March 19: Judaism
March 26: NO CLASS
April 2: Selected Christian doctrines (Day after Easter, may not meet. If so, all future classes will shift down a week)
April 9: Islam
April: 16: Islam, continued
April 23: Indigenous religions
April 30: Wrap-up

(Editor’s Note: Mark Waters, professor of religion and director of international education at McMurry University, will lead a class on world religions that is open to the public, Mondays, Jan. 22-April 30, at the Episcopal Church of the Heavenly Rest. He tells about the class below.)

By Mark Waters
McMurry University
Professor of religion and director of international education

The study of world religions is based on the golden rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Mark Waters

Would you rather someone of another religion evaluate your religion–positively or negatively–based on ignorant stereotypes or based on a genuine understanding of your faith? Most of us, of course, would answer that we prefer that the religious “other” would “do unto us” based on genuine understanding. Consequently, if we are to evaluate other religions, or even have opinions about them, the golden rule requires basic understanding at the very least.

For instance, why do many Hindus bathe and clothe the murti (a statue of a deity) each day? This practice probably sounds odd to those who do not understand its deeper meaning. But Christian practices can also sound odd. Imagine the impression left on some non-Christians when they hear that Christians “eat the flesh and drink the blood” of Christ. Although the following is debated among historians, it appears that second century Christians were sometimes accused of cannibalism based on a misunderstanding of the Eucharist. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

We will begin the study with an exploration of various meanings of the word “religion.” We’ll also explore reasons to study religion. The golden rule is only one among several reasons to become religiously literate. Stephen Prothero of Boston University begins his book, “Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know–And Doesn’t,” with a paradox. Namely, Americans are deeply religious and yet generally uninformed about religion, even their own religion. Here is a brief, fifteen-question religious literacy quiz for those interested: www.pewforum.org/quiz/u-s-religious-knowledge

Readers of spiritofabilene.com will probably do well on the quiz. You likely have an interest in religion or you would not be reading this article. But, in a nationwide survey of 3,412 random adults conducted by the Pew Research Center, only 1 percent answered all fifteen questions correctly.

Following a general introduction to religion, we will plunge into the specifics. We will learn about Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and indigenous spiritual practices. My lecture style is interactive and flexible. Therefore, this schedule may be adapted based on the interests of those who come to the class. Additionally, copies of the book, “My Neighbor’s Faith,” edited by Jennifer Peace and others, will be available. The book is a series of over fifty very short stories told by people who befriended someone of another faith. This class is not a study of the book per se, but the book will add a personal dimension–real people in interfaith encounter–to the course.

You do not have to read the book to be part of the course, but I will occasionally give participants in the course an opportunity to describe a favorite story in the book and explain why the story is a favorite. My students at McMurry find these stories to be one of the favorite parts of the class, Religions of the World.

Everyone is invited. We hope to have people from a variety of religions represented in the Abilene community in addition to members of Heavenly Rest. I hope to see you in Gerhart Hall at the Episcopal Church of the Heavenly Rest beginning at 7 p.m. Jan. 22, and most Mondays thereafter through April.

 

 

 

 

GRIT LEADS TO BOOK FOR HSU GRAD

By Loretta Fulton

“Determined, dedicated, delightful.”

Those three words pretty well define Jan Eastland. Two words that she never let define her were “cerebral” and “palsy.” Even though Eastland has lived with the neurological disorder her entire life, she never let it define her. That was proven again Jan. 12 when a reception was held for her at Hardin-Simmons University marking the publication of her memoir, “Assorted Nuts.”

The book was made possible by Lanny Hall, chancellor of Hardin-Simmons who was president of the university when he first heard that Eastland wanted to get her memoir published. Hall took it upon himself to make sure that happened.

“We’re going to get that published,” Hall promised.

Eastland had the typed pages stored on a computer disk, which Hall, his assistant Donna Hall (not related) and others got into the proper format to be published through Amazon’s CreateSpace.

Eastland has proven all her 74 years that she wouldn’t let cerebral palsy, the result of an injury at birth, define her or limit her. It took her 17 years to earn a bachelor’s degree in sociology from HSU, but she did it. One of her professors was Julian Bridges, who defined Eastland as “determined, dedicated, delightful.”

He recalled that when Eastland got her degree in 1978, something special happened at the commencement ceremony.

“All of the graduating class stood up and applauded,” he said during the Jan. 12 reception.

Hall noted in his remarks that Eastland first enrolled at HSU in the 1960s and has met all of the university’s presidents since then.

“She’s seen a lot of nuts,” he said, a reference to the book title, which Eastland chose.

In addition to seeing people buying her book, enjoying a beautiful cake, and being greeted by a crowd of well-wishers, Eastland received a couple of special notices. State Rep. Stan Lambert, who was unable to attend, got a state resolution adopted honoring Eastland.

Abilene Mayor Anthony Williams, who also was unable to attend, signed a proclamation naming Jan. 12 as “Jan Eastland Day” in Abilene. The proclamation was printed on a plaque, which was presented to Eastland.

Current HSU President Eric Bruntmyer said Eastland sometimes visits his office and always is a blessing.

“You can see her spirit,” Bruntmyer said, “as she goes throughout the campus.”

 

 

 

NEW OFFICERS TO LEAD AAC IN 2018

IMG_2453

Cliff Stewart, left, is taking over for Jim McDonald, right, as president of the Abilene Association of Congregations. Photo by Loretta Fulton

IMG_2452

Jim McDonald, at podium, installs the 2018 officers for the Abilene Association of Congregations. Left to right are Cliff Stewart, president; Phil Christopher, vice president; and Jim Reinbolt, treasurer. New secretary, Amanda Watson, was not present. Photo by Loretta Fulton

By Loretta Fulton

Jim McDonald served on the steering committee that formed the Abilene Association of Congregations in 1985, was a member when it began a year later, and stepped aside as the outgoing president during a ceremony Jan. 9.

But he made it clear in his last remarks as president that the association’s history isn’t as important as its future.

“How we proceed from this day forward,” McDonald said, “is most important.”

The association will be in good hands going forward. New officers taking office Jan. 9 were Cliff Stewart, pastor of First Central Presbyterian Church, president; Phil Christopher, pastor of First Baptist Church, vice president; Jim Reinbolt, treasurer; and Amanda Watson, assistant clergy at the Episcopal Church of the Heavenly Rest, secretary.

In his “inaugural address,” Stewart noted that he had followed Roy Zuefeldt, one of the main forces behind forming the association, as pastor of First Central Presbyterian. He said other communities have ministerial associations, or associations for minister, but that the Abilene association is different in a significant way–it is an association of congregations, meaning the folks in the pews are invited to take part, too.

“We believe this kind of thing is important,” he said.

PROGRAM AIDS GRIEVING ADULTS

By Omer Hancock

Do you need help and encouragement after the death of a loved one? GriefShare is a special weekly support for adult men and women who are grieving the death of members and/or friends.

OmerHancock

Omer Hancock

I will be facilitation a 13-week session of GriefShare beginning Tuesday, Jan. 23, at Pioneer Drive Baptist Church, 701 S. Pioneer Drive. Cost is $15 for a workbook. Classes will meet 3-5 p.m. in Room 114. Scholarships are available. Contact call 692-6776 for more information.

Stan Allcorn, pastor of Pioneer Drive, asked me about starting a grief support group at the church and serving as the facilitator. We made the decision to use a program called GriefShare. Our first session was in the Fall 2015. Four sessions have been held, with a total of 60 participating.

GriefShare has offices in Wake Forest, North Carolina.  For about 20 years, thousands of churches have offered this program. A wide variety of churches have participated and new groups continue to begin. GriefShare has a format of 13 weeks, for about two hours each week, including a time to meet and visit with others who desire to benefit from a grief support group.

The content of the weekly sessions includes a video with both professional counselors and others who address a variety of topics on grief.  A workbook accompanies the videos.  Also, the workbook includes material for participants to do between the weekly sessions.

Those who have participated express gratitude for the experience to meet and visit with others and to receive great benefit from the videos and the workbook. The participants gain a healthy perspective on grief  and hope to move forward with life as they continue to work through their grief.
Omer Hancock is a retired religion professor at Hardin-Simmons University.

 

FAMILY REUNIONS

By Danny Minton

Every year, I try to attend the family reunion on my dad’s side. Like many families, the Minton family has always made it a point to get together on a yearly basis to keep in touch. I believe this is an important part of a family’s legacy and should be a practice that every family should make a part of their tradition.

DannyMinton

Danny Minton

While driving home a few years back, my mind raced back to reunions of years past. I remember the Fourth of July reunions that took place in, I believe, my Uncle Carl’s backyard when he lived next door to my Granny Minton. I remember when the cousins went around to all the uncles gathering everyone’s change together and then being carted off to the fireworks stand, returning with a treasure box of exploding missiles, bottle rockets, and Roman candles.

I thought of all the Christmases that the family would get together in Granny’s house. I remembered the joking and laughter of my aunts and uncles and the cousins racing through the house and being made sure their every need was met by Granny. I can still hear the knock on the door as my Uncle Clyde came in dressed as Santa Claus. “Where are your reindeer?” several of us shouted. Without a pause, he quickly told us “You didn’t have a chimney, so I parked them down at the corner.” Of course, we all believed him.

The sounds of dominoes shuffling as my uncles played “42” at the kitchen table are still clear in my head. I see my Aunt Mary enjoying and doting over every niece and nephew. I hear the distinctive laugh of my Uncle Troy. I listened to my Uncle Carl talk about the antique Ford he was restoring in his garage. In fact, as I remember it, every single aunt and uncle had a great fondness for every niece and nephew. I can still see the presents, taste the food, hear the stories, smell the tree and feel the presence of love in the small house in Dallas, Texas.

Years later as I returned it was all still there. Yes, most of my aunts and uncles are now gone, but their spirit lives on in their children and grandchildren. There were familiar and not so familiar faces, yet there was still a bond that pulsated through the room. It was the bond of family. A bond of love that had been started years ago by a hardworking matriarch. A woman who after the death of her husband moved forward with a house full of children for whom to provide. A woman who I watched iron clothes for a living at 10 and 15 cents apiece, when most women her age were sitting in rocking chairs on the front porch.

As I looked at the house full of people I thought to myself, “What better legacy to leave than a family that continues to love each other and wants to be with each other decades after you have left this earth.” I felt the ever-present remnants of family love that remained from bygone years.

I’m also reminded of a second family reunion. This one is not yearly but weekly. It’s the reunion we have with our brothers and sisters in Christ as we gather together with Him on Sunday mornings. It’s a time of joy and love provided by our most great and wonderful Patriarch. The one who loves us and takes care of our every need.

I’m reminded of the church in Acts 2. “All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”

It is there too in this setting that you will feel the presence of love, the love of our Lord and Savior and our God, our Patriarch. When a church continues to have this spirit, when it continues to band together, it will grow both numerically and spiritually. It is up to leaders to keep the flame alive in the hearts of people and not let it burn out. We are family.

________________

There, in the presence of the Lord your God, you and your families shall eat and shall rejoice in everything you have put your hand to, because the Lord your God has blessed you.

Deuteronomy 12:7

Danny Minton is Pastoral Minister and Elder at Southern Hills Church of Christ