We learned a new way of worshipping this morning at Mt. Nebo Missionary Baptist Church in Philadelphia, Miss.
Mt. Nebo is a small country church with a very energetic congregation. Throughout the service, “Yeah” and “Amen” could be heard from various members engaging with the pastor and deacons that spoke.
A lot of us were looking forward to hearing the choir sing. They were a small choir of about ten members but they were strong in the music and most of the congregation joined in.
Pastor M.C. Thompson, Jr. presided over the service and welcomed us into his congregation. The theme of his sermon was the “Three Who Paid the Ultimate Price,” meaning James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner as honored at this weekend’s 50th Annual Mississippi Civil Rights Martyrs Memorial Service.
The pastor was very engaged with his sermon and even broke into song as he concluded it. The piano player and drummer gave him a melody to match his words and the congregation started clapping along, us included.
After a group photo outside of the church, we drove to Selma, Ala. where we met with Joanne Bland, Lynda Lowery, and Annie Pearl Avery, all Civil Rights era workers.
All three shared their experiences in the Selma marches of 1963-64, including Bloody Sunday and Turnaround Tuesday. They were also jailed in Selma for marching.
When the crowd of over 2,000 people marched across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, police told them go back. The leader of Lowery’s section told them to get down on their knees and pray, so they did.
Then they heard gunfire, Lowery said. Someone was pulling back on the collar of her dress and then she bit the hand that was also holding her lapel. The person pulling her called her the ‘n-word’ twice and then hit her twice above her right eye.
She was then chased into the tear gas and she fell. When she woke up, she was on a stretcher that was being placed in a hearse, but people were still running across the bridge so Lowery got up and ran across too.
Joanne Bland gave us a tour around Selma. We stopped at the Brown Chapel Church where the first march started and marched over the Edmund Pettus Bridge in the rain.
Oprah Winfrey and Brad Pitt are producing a movie, “Selma” in the town and we accidentally walked onto the set of the movie after crossing the bridge and movie security guards asked us to leave. We apologized and started singing, “Ain’t gonna let no security turn me around,” one of the freedom songs we learned.
Also while touring Selma, the bus driver took a turn down a street that was blocked off by police at the opposite end. We learned that a 3-point-turn is not possible with a large charter bus on a small street. If you do try it, you just might take a chunk of light pole back home with you, plus a bent mirror and almost backing into a church. The mirror was fixed after we walked across the Edmund Pettus Bridge and we returned safely to our hotel.