I add my appreciation for the life, ministry and witness of the Rev. Lonzy Edwards. Macon has lost a leader and a public servant as well as a pastor.
Many African-American clergy have historically understood that a calling to the Lord’s service could be combined with a calling to public service. Lonzy stood squarely in that tradition. A black pastor in Atlanta and seminary classmate of mine carries a bullhorn in his trunk and a Bible in his front seat. He is ready to speak, in the pulpit, at a news conference or on the street.
My relationship with Lonzy was not dramatic. While I served as pastor at Mulberry Street United Methodist Church, I was introduced to him by his law partner and my parishioner Susan Middleton, who thought we would find common ground — and we did.
Lonzy was leading a series of seminars at his church, Mount Moriah Baptist. Many white people in the South see little need to attend such seminars, convinced that race relations would be better if we didn’t address the topic.
I’ve lost track of the number of people who declare that race relations were better before President Barack Obama. “Better” means that things are better when we don’t have to talk about it. Some people of all races approach any kind of misunderstanding — marital, job-related, etc. — like this. Ignore it and it will disappear.
Lonzy had structured a series of meetings where white and black Christians could attempt to heal wounds, understand each other and address continuing issues in our city. He generously invited me to attend and eventually co-lead some of these meetings.
The meetings worked well, up to a point. We met at Mount Moriah a few times with a few Mulberry members in attendance, followed by refreshments. My only frustration was that Lonzy — a very busy man because of his elected position, his law practice and his church — could never be pinned down to do advance planning. He was well experienced in such meetings, but I wasn’t. Even so, the meetings went fine.
Then came the meeting held at Mulberry. There was a good turnout of members from across the Macon community. Lonzy began speaking fairly sharply about the school situation in Bibb County, to which a white person took umbrage, making what felt to me like a pretty strong blaming statement.
Tempers were escalating, the tension was rising and I was afraid that some members I’d coaxed into attending would never return. Fearing a rupture I jumped to the lectern, guided the conversation into safer waters and congratulated myself for averting disaster.
Following the session, some participants complained to me that just when we were getting involved in something substantive I stifled the conversation. They were correct; I was too timid. It would have been better if Lonzy, far more skilled, had continued to lead. We might have mixed it up that night, but honesty is a good starting place. We’ll never deeply love each other as long as we play nice.
Lonzy Edwards loved and cared for this community enough to promote change. That evening was the last session our congregations had together. That’s too bad. We need others like Lonzy who love this city enough to want something better for us all.
Creede Hinshaw, a retired United Methodist pastor of 36 years, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.