by Michael Catt
On October 12, 2008, I found myself sitting on the platform of the old Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Albany, Georgia. Sitting beside me was my friend and “co-pastor” Daniel Simmons, senior pastor of Mt. Zion. Daniel and I have worked together now for a number of years to try to build bridges and work toward racial reconciliation in the Albany area.
Earlier that day, I preached at Mt. Zion for Daniel’s 17th anniversary. To be honest, I typically get better reception and response from the African American churches in our area than I do from my fellow Southern Baptists. Unfortunately, some of the “brethren” are still living in the 1960s. Doing the right thing doesn’t always bring the praise of your peers, but I’ve resolved to do it anyway.
Sitting on that platform, I became fully aware of the history of the church. Founded in 1865 at the end of the Civil War, the church has had only nine pastors, including Daniel. In 1961, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. preached on that very platform as students and black community leaders struggled for equality. Albany, Georgia, made national news because of the arrest of Dr. King here. It is one of the things my community probably wishes it were not known for. While many know of Selma, few, it seems, know of the events surrounding the Civil Rights Movement and Dr. King in Albany.
In the baptism area of the old Mt. Zion church is a picture of Dr. King standing on that platform. Sitting there looking at the picture and realizing where I was stirred my heart in ways I did not expect. Having been raised in the South during the Civil Rights Movement, I am very familiar with the hatred, prejudice and injustices that have occurred in my lifetime.
To be given another award (others include recognition from the Georgia State Senate and the Unity Award at a Martin Luther King Celebration here in Albany) is humbling. I’ve simply sought to do what is right. Paul said, “In Christ there is no slave or free, Jew or Gentile.” If he had been writing in 20th-century America, he would have said, “no black or white.”
I am grateful today to pastor a church that is increasingly multi-racial. In the 1970s, the church I pastor would not allow blacks in the door. Now (and not without some blessed subtractions from our membership of bigots who called themselves believers) we welcome whosoever will. By the grace of God and the loving acceptance by our people, we don’t look at color anymore.
I am privileged to be called the “co-pastor” of Mt. Zion, just as Daniel is called the “co-pastor” of Sherwood. It’s an incredible partnership, friendship and witness to this community that when people love Jesus the way they should, they will love each other.
2ProphetU is an online magazine/website, started by Warren Wiersbe and Michael Catt, to build up the church, seek revival, and encourage pastors.