On Sunday, June 25th, Springfield Baptist “came home” to First Baptist Greenville. At least, that’s how they described that one day of their year-long celebration of their 150th anniversary as a church. They wanted to be here, and that’s remarkable, given that in our first 36 years together the people sitting in the balcony of the Sanctuary — who would one day become Springfield — were legally “owned” by the people sitting on the ground floor.

On April 21, 1867, the balcony people submitted a request to what was then called the Greenville Baptist Church to be dismissed to form their own congregation. Their letter included these sentiments: “In making such a request we desire to express our continued confidence in these with whom we have been so long united in church fellowship, and our affection for them. And we request that we may continue to receive from them counsel and aid such as they have hitherto readily given us.”

That same spirit of graciousness filled the Fellowship Hall on June 25th as members of the Springfield Baptist Church gathered with us to reaffirm our ties. But what to say in response on an occasion that would be such a strange mingling of regret and celebration?

Pastor Jim Dant opened the gathering by reminding us that our best prayers are essentially, “I’m sorry” and “thank you” words that also express our feelings toward Springfield.

FBG Church Historian Glen Clayton closed the meeting with these words: “We can claim no moral high ground in our treatment of our African American members, but we did get some things right, and we failed in others. In spite of our weaknesses, God’s Spirit was moving among us, and by God’s guidance both congregations have continued to be witnesses of God’s grace in their communities.”

Proverbs 25 says that the right words at the right time are “…like apples of gold in settings of silver.” It was gracious words that inspired change 150 years ago, and grace-filled words that call out the best in us today, revealing our essential oneness. Let’s hold them before us now, so they will light the way ahead!

— Kyle