Ongoing Response to COVID-19

Weekday Email to Members and Friends – 2021-01-22

Friday, January 22nd, 2021
A weekday e-mailer from
Matt Matthews
May this prayer center and lead us to worship on this Sunday…
Oh Lord Christ, 
Son of God who takest away the sins of the world: 
Have mercy on us for we have sinned.  
In a world filled with much faithlessness, 
and lovelessness, 
and vindictiveness, 
forgive us, O Master of the Universe, 
for joining the crowd.
PEACE and much love,
Matt Matthews
* * *


The Nurture Committee invites you to join them over Zoom on Tuesday, January 26, at 7 pm for the next Virtual Dessert.  Bring your favorite dessert or beverage.

Email for the link.

* * *

From your Nurture Team — the photo challenge is back from a little break.
Here’s this week’s photo.   

Visit to make your guesses, or email them to  
Please join in the fun!  We would like you to select a photo from your younger years (grade school, high school or early adulthood). Photos need not be professional. Candid shots are welcome. Please send your photos to
* * *
From the bleak midwinter…
…to a Lovely Day


Weekday Email to Members and Friends – 2021-01-21

Thursday, January 21st, 2021
A weekday e-mailer from
Matt Matthews
To Members and Friends of 
First Presbyterian Church
Champaign, Illinois
Our Covid-19 Response Team has not ceased meeting. Here’s the latest:
January 15, 2021 
Minutes from Covid Committee Meeting via Zoom on 1/12/21. 
The Covid Committee met via Zoom on 1/12/21 to touch base after news of vaccine availability was noted by several in the congregation. In attendance were Matt Matthews, Eric Corbin, Judi Geistlinger, Mark Schoeffmann, Carol Miles, Tom Ulen and Ruth Craddock. We welcomed Tom and Carol as new session reps for Physical Plant and Worship committees respectively. 
We reviewed that Illinois Region 6 remains in Phase 4 with Tier 3 mitigations, starting November 20 and scheduled to persist until 2/6/21 per the IDPH web site information. Note was made that while the 7 day rolling percentage rate was dropping some, the hospitalization rates and ICU occupancy were such that Tier 3 mitigations could not yet be reduced to Tier 2 mitigations in Region 6. We also noted that our previous decision to postpone face to face worship in light of increasing cases of Covid 19 was predicated on the state of Illinois’ call to go to Tier 1 mitigations when the 7 day positivity rate exceeded 8 % and that we would be able to consider reconvening face to face services when the 7 day positivity rate fell below 6.5 %. Now we all read on the web site that the Tier 3 mitigations would be reduced once the rate was below 12% along with adequate access to both ICU and hospital beds. With fewer cases overall, and with adequate ICU/hospital beds available, the state would then reduce restrictions on activities gradually, moving from Tier 3 to Tier 2 and eventually back to Tier 1 mitigations, and then eventually removing all mitigations to resume the Phase 4 Restore IL plan as outlined on the public health web site. 
We made note of 2 community options to receive a corona virus vaccine locally, and referenced information about vaccinations readily available via local news outlets on TV and in print, as well as the Champaign-Urbana Public Health Department via phone and website. The current community options for vaccination are available for people over age 75, provided after the vaccinations of health care providers; the vaccine will be offered for people over age 65 in the next week or so, and we noted that at this time of change in federal leadership, details about the vaccination process will likely be changing and all are optimistic that the vaccine rollout will soon be much improved locally and nationally. We would recommend that as many people in the congregation as are able and willing should get the vaccine.
Matt brought to our attention a concern of a member of the congregation about a small group meeting in Westminster Hall; it was unclear whether the group was meeting weekly or monthly, but it was known that the group was fewer than 10 individuals. We reviewed that in the fall of 2020 the committee had agreed that Matt and originally Peter Yau, when he was still on the committee, would be able to make decisions on a case by case basis as to whether or not various groups requesting to use church space for meetings would be allowed to do so, and that the entire committee did not need to meet to make those decisions. All groups meeting at the church are following protocols which include wearing masks, signing in to allow for contact tracing, taking temperatures etc. We reviewed that there had been several possible exposures to various people in the church, both in the groups that meet as well as the staff, but the origin of the exposures was difficult to pinpoint, and thus far no severe disease or outcomes were noted. We did discuss that the group in question meeting in Westminster Hall was able to socially distance in that space, whereas they would be in closer quarters were they to meet in someone’s home, and reviewed that it was their choice to meet, and not a mandated meeting. 
Recognizing that we likely have not yet seen the peak of Covid 19 cases following Christmas and New Year’s, we agreed to meet again in later January or early February to see where things stand in terms of local, regional, state and national cases, with the hope that as more people get vaccinated and that as the number of cases comes down, we will be able to plan for face to face worship again. Matt reviewed that the online worship format aired on Sunday mornings remains the ‘flagship’ worship service and that if we can resume face to face worship in a few months, it will be socially distanced with masks, without singing etc as discussed in previous meetings. 
Respectively submitted, Ruth Craddock 
Covid-19 Response Team
1 Ron Deering
2 Judi Geistlinger
3 Carol Miles/worship
4 Ken Chapman
5 Matt Matthews
6 Eric Corbin
7 Mark Schoeffmann
8 Ruth Craddock, chair
9 Tim Young
10 Tom Ulen/Grounds
When we get wind of Covid vaccine schedules, we are forwarding them to you as soon as we receive them. The schedules fill up by the next day, so be diligent. 

* * *

The Nurture Committee invites you to join them over Zoom on Tuesday, January 26, at 7 pm for the next Virtual Dessert.  Bring your favorite dessert or beverage.

Email for the link.
* * *
Pray for our Session. They meet this evening.
Humor (Hard times really need godly laughter): 
Thank you Bill Marble:
I read that by law you must turn on your headlights when it’s raining in Sweden but how am I supposed to know when it is raining in Sweden? 
* * *
Pyro parable, perhaps apocryphal
from Bill Gamble
An early settler in East Central Illinois was building a small log cabin, small because logs were scarce in the tall-grass prairie.  He needed stones for a fireplace, also scarce in the prairie.  He eventually located some nice black rocks in a creek bed, and built the fireplace. 
Sometime later he built the first fire in the fireplace, but soon it was much warmer than he wanted and then it became a raging inferno, consuming first the fireplace and then the entire cabin.  Guess what:  Those “nice black rocks” were coal!
A version of this was once published as a warning to building designers:  Pick your building materials carefully.
(There is no black rocks in our new kitchen. I don’t think. [ed.])
Good Word: 
Mark 1:14-20                      
14Now after John was arrested, Jesus  came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, 15and  saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near;  repent, and believe in the good news.”
16As Jesus passed along the Sea of  Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea—for  they were fishermen. 17And Jesus said to them, “Follow  me and I will make you fish for people.” 18And  immediately they left their nets and followed him. 19As  he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John,  who were in their boat mending the nets. 20Immediately  he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired  men, and followed him.

Let us pray: 

Holy God, when our “personal” experience of You allows no room for others,
      help us to seek your forgiveness.
When “church” becomes a sanctuary only and never a launch pad,
      help us to seek your forgiveness.
Forgive us, Holy God, for the ways we seek a personal relationship with you to the exclusion of the whole world. 
      Hear our prayer.
Open us to new friendships. 
      Hear our prayer.
Inspire us to be curious about ways of thinking different than our own. 
      Hear our prayer.
Forgive our pride that proclaims “my way is the best way.” 
      Hear our prayer.
Help us to listen and to hear. 
      Hear our prayer.
Help us repair our community with hospitality and friendship, in the manner of Jesus.
      Hear our prayer.
Grow our kinship with the world you love and have so graciously redeemed in Jesus Christ. 
* * *
Much, much love to you all.
Matt Matthews
Cell: 864.386.9138


Weekday Email to Members and Friends – 2021-01-20

Wednesday, January 20th, 2021
A weekday e-mailer from
Matt Matthews
Inauguration Day
To Members and Friends of 
First Presbyterian Church
Champaign, Illinois
Yesterday by noon we had gone over the punch list. 
Tim Young, Joanne Walther, Gary Peterson, Ritchie Drennen, and a team of contractors, supply professionals, and architects reviewed the drawings and took a careful walk-through of our new kitchen. They turned every knob, rolled down and rolled up dividers over the serving window and the dish return, checked thermometers, and tried out every appliance. All the faucets work. The drains drain. The floor is a shade of maroonish-red I might call russet, or, maybe, brick red. They gleam. The appliances are shiny, silver. They purr. The ice machine is full of ice. The workspaces are clean and spacious. The crew was thanked and prayed over. We are ready for a new day. When the small list of last things is fixed, the final few checks will be authorized, signed, and mailed. A new chapter officially begins. The ways we can serve the world through that brand-new kitchen is limited only by our imagination. 
I hope we dream big.
The transformation I describe happening in our kitchen is happening this very day in our nation. Every four years we come to this moment. There is an inauguration or a second inauguration. Speeches are made. Parades roll up and down Pennsylvania Avenue. Flowers are placed at Arlington, respects paid, promises made. People are thanked and prayed over. There is a wave of elation or a deep sigh. We as a nation have been entrusted with a new day.
We’ll do it four years from now. And four years hence. And hopefully long beyond our lifetime and that our our children’s children.
Every four years we take a deep breath and allow ourselves to see beyond what is to what could be. We allow ourselves to dream. 
I hope we dream big.
May God bless our kitchen. And our country.
So much has been entrusted to our care.
Join us for our Wednesday Night Zoom. Let’s connect, pray, and celebrate a new offering from our Gathering Band, as well as, perhaps, a few surprises. 7:00 this evening. 
Email for the link.

* * *
Pray for our Session. They meet tomorrow evening.
Humor (Hard times really need godly laughter): 
Tom Ulen shares this old chestnut:  
A minister in a large city was short of time and couldn’t find an available parking space; so, he parked in a no-parking zone. He put a note under his car’s windshield wiper that read, “I have circled the block ten times. If I don’t park here, I’ll miss my appointment. Forgive us our trespasses.” 
When he returned, he found a citation from a police officer, along with this note: “I’ve circled this block for ten years. If I don’t give you a ticket, I’ll lose my job. Lead us not into temptation.” 
(Bill Marble and Gary Peterson have shared some dillies. Tune in tomorrow for the first dose of those funnies.)
Good Word: 
Psalm 118:24             
This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.

A poem-prayer by
Matthew Joseph Thaddeus Stepanek
submitted by Nancy MacGregor
Nancy writes this:     Matty was 11 when he wrote this. He died of Dysautonomic Mitochondrial Myopathy, a form of Muscular Dystrophy, an affliction his mother also has. Sadly Matty’s 3 elder siblings also died before Matty of DMM. Between 2001 and 2003, Matty published 5 books of Heartsongs poems – HeartsongsJourney through HeartsongsHope through Heartsongs, Celebrate through Heartsongs, and Loving through Heartsongs. I am always impressed by the sensitivity and perception of children. Too bad we don’t take time to really hear what they are saying to us. 
For Our World
We need to stop.
Just stop.
Stop for a moment.
Before anybody
Says or does anything
That may hurt anyone else.
We need to be silent.
Just silent.
Silent for a moment.
Before we forever lose
The blessing of songs
That grow in our hearts.
We need to notice.
Just notice.
Notice for a moment.
Before the future slips away
Into ashes and dust of humility.
Stop, be silent, and notice.
In so many ways, we are the same.
Our differences are unique treasures.
We have, we are, a mosaic of gifts
To nurture, to offer, to accept.
We need to be.
Just be.
Be for a moment.
Kind and gentle, innocent and trusting,
Like children and lambs,
Never judging or vengeful
Like the judging and vengeful.
And now, let us pray,
Differently, yet together,
Before there is no earth, no life,
No chance for peace.
September 11, 2001 Matthew Joseph Thaddeus Stepanek 1990 – 2004
from Hope Through Heartsongs, Hyperion, 2002
* * *
Much, much love to you all.
Matt Matthews
Cell: 864.386.9138


Weekday Email to Members and Friends – 2021-01-19



The Heart of Mission
January 19, 2021
In response to exploring “poverty,” a church member sent me a link to a recent podcast he had heard on This American Life, “Reluctant Bureaucrats” at podcast conveyed to him “an alarming crisis” that “for the sake of the homeless” demands our attention.  He noted that we may have a better handle on the homeless crisis here in Champaign than San Francisco but we should never take it for granted. He is right. We should not take it for granted. I am personally grateful for you who are working in your own way and in small groups in our congregation to attend to the poor and to attend to our “neighbors without an address,” as
CU at Home likes to say. (Don’t forget One Winter’s Night, Feb. 5).
One way to help the poor and homeless is to attend to “the stranger in our midst.” Attending to them; being their host; treating them as the Christ; loving them. Several events happened this past week that reminded me of the many places in scripture that God’s people are commanded not to forget the “stranger in our midst.” The NRSV translates the word “stranger” or “foreigner” as “alien.” I prefer “stranger.” “Alien” sounds like we are on Star Trek.
33 When an alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien. 34 The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God. Leviticus 19:33-34 (NRSV)
Our ESL community (English as a Second Language) held a zoom café last Thursday that was a great way to help us turn “strangers” into “friends.” We introduced ourselves and our ESL director, Jeanette Pyne, led us in a categories game. It was fun! Put the second Thursday of the month at 10am and join us for the  next one.
Our Raindrop Offering recipient from this past summer, Frontera de Cristo, held a recent prayer service at the border. In their newsletter this week they shared some stirring and profound photos by Photographer John Kurc. They write,
We invite your prayers for the women and men, mainly from Central America, who are being returned to Agua Prieta every morning and evening in below freezing or near freezing conditions. The US Border Patrol detains them in locations more than four hours from here, throws away all their food and water, and takes them to a city where they have never been. We have not encountered any who know what city they are in when they arrive—only one man has told us that they were advised as to where they were being taken, and said he was told it would be Nogales. Some return wearing only a t-shirt and jeans.
We are grateful for our partnership with the Migrant Resource Center, the CAME, the School Sisters of Notre Dame, Café Justo, and volunteers from Agua Prieta and Douglas to provide a welcome to these women and men. Together with the support of Samaritans from many places, we have provided support for more than 1,200 people who were sent to Agua Prieta in the last three weeks, when the US Government began returning people to Mexico, but to locations more than four hours from the last place in Mexico they had been.
“Photographer John Kurc has been staying with us and providing photographs of the land devastation created by the border wall construction, as well as photographs at our ministry sites. These photos were taken at the port of entry and at the MRC(The link will take you to the facebook page.)
I have been too long in reporting on The Refugee Center, one of our mission agencies that supports our refugee and immigrant community. This past week Lisa Wilson, the Executive Director, writes,
For our clients, COVID has been devastating. Most of them work in the food and hospitality industry. Many clients have been out of work for months, with little prospect of returning to pre-pandemic employment levels. Most of these clients do not qualify for Federal stimulus benefits, unemployment insurance or public benefits like SNAP and Medicaid. Some have been infected by COVID, and forced to quarantine with their entire household. Sadly, we have lost clients to COVID. The lives of their families are changed forever by a virus that took over the world.  
Our clients face unprecedented need right now. We have assisted clients by leveraging our resources to acquire grants and gifts in excess of $620,000 for our local immigrant community. Our profound thanks to the Illinois COVID Response Fund, the Illinois Department of Human Services, the Illinois Coalition of Immigrant and Refugee Rights, United Way of Champaign County, the Community Foundation of East Central Illinois, area faith based organizations and our generous donors for their confidence in our organization. Through these funds, we were able to give clients direct assistance checks for rent and utility bills, as well as gift cards for food and other basic needs. In spite of the generous response of our community, the need for future assistance remains urgent.
From education and conversation to walking with and serving our neighbor, let us live and let us love. Someday soon we will embrace again and our eyes will be opened to the Christ in our midst.
Rev. Dr. Rachel Matthews, Mission Coordinator

Let us keep all our mission partners in our prayers, those who are waiting to go back to their place of ministry and those who are able to work where they are. Listen for God’s call to you in their ministry.
Our PC(USA) Mission CoWorkers:
Mark Adams and Miriam Maidonado Escobar (Mexico)
Farsijanna Adeney-Risakotta (Indonesia)
Jeff and Christi Boyd (Central Africa)
Bob and Kristi Rice (South Sudan)
Our regional and global mission partners:
Kemmerer Village (and Camp Carew)
Lifeline Pilots
Marion Medical Mission
Mission Aviation Fellowship
Opportunity International
Friends of Presbyterian Education Board in Pakistan Presbyterian Cuba Partnership
Special Offerings of the PC(USA)
Theological Education Fund
Young Adult Volunteers
Here in Champaign – Urbana:
CU at Home
Here at First Presbyterian Church
FPCC Amateur Preachers
FPCC Environmental Committee working with Faith in Place
FPCC Presbyterian Women
FPCC Children, Youth and Families
FPCC Mission Possible/Go and Serve
FPCC Mission Team, World Mission and Community Mission Deacons

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  302 W. Church Street
  Champaign, IL 61820



Weekday Email to Members and Friends – 2021-01-18

Monday, January 18th, 2021
A weekday e-mailer from
Matt Matthews
Martin Luther King, Jr. 
Birthday Holiday
To Members and Friends of 
First Presbyterian Church
Champaign, Illinois
If you missed yesterday’s worship service, consider tuning in now. Andrew King was a fine preacher. Stillman College rocked the music. It was a beautiful morning thanking God for Martin Luther King, Jr., who, on his most recent birthday, would have been 93-years-old.
Attached in Martin Luther King Jr’s rousing “I Have A Dream Speech.”
And here is his letter from the Birmingham jail; for those of you who write, his letter clocks in just under 7,000 words.  
Looking back upon these words help me think about better ways to move forward. On of the things I love about Dr. King is how Jesus was at the center of his life.
Happy Birthday, Martin.
Much, much love to you all.
Matt Matthews
Cell: 864.386.9138
6 April 1963

My Dear Fellow Clergymen:

While confined here in the Birmingham city jail, I came across your recent statement calling my present activities “unwise and untimely.” Seldom do I pause to answer criticism of my work and ideas. If I sought to answer all the criticisms that cross my desk, my secretaries would have little time for anything other than such correspondence in the course of the day, and I would have no time for constructive work. But since I feel that you are men of genuine good will and that your criticisms are sincerely set forth, I want to try to answer your statement in what I hope will be patient and reasonable terms.
I think I should indicate why I am here in Birmingham, since you have been influenced by the view which argues against “outsiders coming in.” I have the honor of serving as president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization operating in every southern state, with headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. We have some eighty five affiliated organizations across the South, and one of them is the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights. Frequently we share staff, educational and financial resources with our affiliates. Several months ago the affiliate here in Birmingham asked us to be on call to engage in a nonviolent direct action program if such were deemed necessary. We readily consented, and when the hour came we lived up to our promise. So I, along with several members of my staff, am here because I was invited here. I am here because I have organizational ties here.
But more basically, I am in Birmingham because injustice is here. Just as the prophets of the eighth century B.C. left their villages and carried their “thus saith the Lord” far beyond the boundaries of their home towns, and just as the Apostle Paul left his village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to the far corners of the Greco Roman world, so am I compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my own home town. Like Paul, I must constantly respond to the Macedonian call for aid.
Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial “outside agitator” idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.
You deplore the demonstrations taking place in Birmingham. But your statement, I am sorry to say, fails to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations. I am sure that none of you would want to rest content with the superficial kind of social analysis that deals merely with effects and does not grapple with underlying causes. It is unfortunate that demonstrations are taking place in Birmingham, but it is even more unfortunate that the city’s white power structure left the Negro community with no alternative.
In any nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps: collection of the facts to determine whether injustices exist; negotiation; self purification; and direct action. We have gone through all these steps in Birmingham. There can be no gainsaying the fact that racial injustice engulfs this community. Birmingham is probably the most thoroughly segregated city in the United States. Its ugly record of brutality is widely known. Negroes have experienced grossly unjust treatment in the courts. There have been more unsolved bombings of Negro homes and churches in Birmingham than in any other city in the nation. These are the hard, brutal facts of the case. On the basis of these conditions, Negro leaders sought to negotiate with the city fathers. But the latter consistently refused to engage in good faith negotiation.
Then, last September, came the opportunity to talk with leaders of Birmingham’s economic community. In the course of the negotiations, certain promises were made by the merchants–for example, to remove the stores’ humiliating racial signs. On the basis of these promises, the Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth and the leaders of the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights agreed to a moratorium on all demonstrations. As the weeks and months went by, we realized that we were the victims of a broken promise. A few signs, briefly removed, returned; the others remained. As in so many past experiences, our hopes had been blasted, and the shadow of deep disappointment settled upon us. We had no alternative except to prepare for direct action, whereby we would present our very bodies as a means of laying our case before the conscience of the local and the national community. Mindful of the difficulties involved, we decided to undertake a process of self purification. We began a series of workshops on nonviolence, and we repeatedly asked ourselves: “Are you able to accept blows without retaliating?” “Are you able to endure the ordeal of jail?” We decided to schedule our direct action program for the Easter season, realizing that except for Christmas, this is the main shopping period of the year. Knowing that a strong economic-withdrawal program would be the by product of direct action, we felt that this would be the best time to bring pressure to bear on the merchants for the needed change.
Then it occurred to us that Birmingham’s mayoral election was coming up in March, and we speedily decided to postpone action until after election day. When we discovered that the Commissioner of Public Safety, Eugene “Bull” Connor, had piled up enough votes to be in the run off, we decided again to postpone action until the day after the run off so that the demonstrations could not be used to cloud the issues. Like many others, we waited to see Mr. Connor defeated, and to this end we endured postponement after postponement. Having aided in this community need, we felt that our direct action program could be delayed no longer.
You may well ask: “Why direct action? Why sit ins, marches and so forth? Isn’t negotiation a better path?” You are quite right in calling for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent resister may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word “tension.” I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth. Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, so must we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood. The purpose of our direct action program is to create a situation so crisis packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation. I therefore concur with you in your call for negotiation. Too long has our beloved Southland been bogged down in a tragic effort to live in monologue rather than dialogue.
One of the basic points in your statement is that the action that I and my associates have taken in Birmingham is untimely. Some have asked: “Why didn’t you give the new city administration time to act?” The only answer that I can give to this query is that the new Birmingham administration must be prodded about as much as the outgoing one, before it will act. We are sadly mistaken if we feel that the election of Albert Boutwell as mayor will bring the millennium to Birmingham. While Mr. Boutwell is a much more gentle person than Mr. Connor, they are both segregationists, dedicated to maintenance of the status quo. I have hope that Mr. Boutwell will be reasonable enough to see the futility of massive resistance to desegregation. But he will not see this without pressure from devotees of civil rights. My friends, I must say to you that we have not made a single gain in civil rights without determined legal and nonviolent pressure. Lamentably, it is an historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture; but, as Reinhold Niebuhr has reminded us, groups tend to be more immoral than individuals.
We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct action campaign that was “well timed” in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word “Wait!” It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This “Wait” has almost always meant “Never.” We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that “justice too long delayed is justice denied.”
We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God given rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jetlike speed toward gaining political independence, but we still creep at horse and buggy pace toward gaining a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, “Wait.” But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six year old daughter why she can’t go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five year old son who is asking: “Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?”; when you take a cross county drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading “white” and “colored”; when your first name becomes “nigger,” your middle name becomes “boy” (however old you are) and your last name becomes “John,” and your wife and mother are never given the respected title “Mrs.”; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of “nobodiness”–then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience. You express a great deal of anxiety over our willingness to break laws. This is certainly a legitimate concern. Since we so diligently urge people to obey the Supreme Court’s decision of 1954 outlawing segregation in the public schools, at first glance it may seem rather paradoxical for us consciously to break laws. One may well ask: “How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?” The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that “an unjust law is no law at all.”
Now, what is the difference between the two? How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality. It gives the segregator a false sense of superiority and the segregated a false sense of inferiority. Segregation, to use the terminology of the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber, substitutes an “I it” relationship for an “I thou” relationship and ends up relegating persons to the status of things. Hence segregation is not only politically, economically and sociologically unsound, it is morally wrong and sinful. Paul Tillich has said that sin is separation. Is not segregation an existential expression of man’s tragic separation, his awful estrangement, his terrible sinfulness? Thus it is that I can urge men to obey the 1954 decision of the Supreme Court, for it is morally right; and I can urge them to disobey segregation ordinances, for they are morally wrong.
Let us consider a more concrete example of just and unjust laws. An unjust law is a code that a numerical or power majority group compels a minority group to obey but does not make binding on itself. This is difference made legal. By the same token, a just law is a code that a majority compels a minority to follow and that it is willing to follow itself. This is sameness made legal. Let me give another explanation. A law is unjust if it is inflicted on a minority that, as a result of being denied the right to vote, had no part in enacting or devising the law. Who can say that the legislature of Alabama which set up that state’s segregation laws was democratically elected? Throughout Alabama all sorts of devious methods are used to prevent Negroes from becoming registered voters, and there are some counties in which, even though Negroes constitute a majority of the population, not a single Negro is registered. Can any law enacted under such circumstances be considered democratically structured?
Sometimes a law is just on its face and unjust in its application. For instance, I have been arrested on a charge of parading without a permit. Now, there is nothing wrong in having an ordinance which requires a permit for a parade. But such an ordinance becomes unjust when it is used to maintain segregation and to deny citizens the First-Amendment privilege of peaceful assembly and protest.
I hope you are able to see the distinction I am trying to point out. In no sense do I advocate evading or defying the law, as would the rabid segregationist. That would lead to anarchy. One who breaks an unjust law must do so openly, lovingly, and with a willingness to accept the penalty. I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law.
Of course, there is nothing new about this kind of civil disobedience. It was evidenced sublimely in the refusal of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to obey the laws of Nebuchadnezzar, on the ground that a higher moral law was at stake. It was practiced superbly by the early Christians, who were willing to face hungry lions and the excruciating pain of chopping blocks rather than submit to certain unjust laws of the Roman Empire. To a degree, academic freedom is a reality today because Socrates practiced civil disobedience. In our own nation, the Boston Tea Party represented a massive act of civil disobedience.
We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was “legal” and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was “illegal.” It was “illegal” to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler’s Germany. Even so, I am sure that, had I lived in Germany at the time, I would have aided and comforted my Jewish brothers. If today I lived in a Communist country where certain principles dear to the Christian faith are suppressed, I would openly advocate disobeying that country’s antireligious laws.
I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.
I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and that when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress. I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that the present tension in the South is a necessary phase of the transition from an obnoxious negative peace, in which the Negro passively accepted his unjust plight, to a substantive and positive peace, in which all men will respect the dignity and worth of human personality. Actually, we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.
In your statement you assert that our actions, even though peaceful, must be condemned because they precipitate violence. But is this a logical assertion? Isn’t this like condemning a robbed man because his possession of money precipitated the evil act of robbery? Isn’t this like condemning Socrates because his unswerving commitment to truth and his philosophical inquiries precipitated the act by the misguided populace in which they made him drink hemlock? Isn’t this like condemning Jesus because his unique God consciousness and never ceasing devotion to God’s will precipitated the evil act of crucifixion? We must come to see that, as the federal courts have consistently affirmed, it is wrong to urge an individual to cease his efforts to gain his basic constitutional rights because the quest may precipitate violence. Society must protect the robbed and punish the robber. I had also hoped that the white moderate would reject the myth concerning time in relation to the struggle for freedom. I have just received a letter from a white brother in Texas. He writes: “All Christians know that the colored people will receive equal rights eventually, but it is possible that you are in too great a religious hurry. It has taken Christianity almost two thousand years to accomplish what it has. The teachings of Christ take time to come to earth.” Such an attitude stems from a tragic misconception of time, from the strangely irrational notion that there is something in the very flow of time that will inevitably cure all ills. Actually, time itself is neutral; it can be used either destructively or constructively. More and more I feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than have the people of good will. We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people. Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be co workers with God, and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right. Now is the time to make real the promise of democracy and transform our pending national elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood. Now is the time to lift our national policy from the quicksand of racial injustice to the solid rock of human dignity.
You speak of our activity in Birmingham as extreme. At first I was rather disappointed that fellow clergymen would see my nonviolent efforts as those of an extremist. I began thinking about the fact that I stand in the middle of two opposing forces in the Negro community. One is a force of complacency, made up in part of Negroes who, as a result of long years of oppression, are so drained of self respect and a sense of “somebodiness” that they have adjusted to segregation; and in part of a few middle-class Negroes who, because of a degree of academic and economic security and because in some ways they profit by segregation, have become insensitive to the problems of the masses. The other force is one of bitterness and hatred, and it comes perilously close to advocating violence. It is expressed in the various black nationalist groups that are springing up across the nation, the largest and best known being Elijah Muhammad’s Muslim movement. Nourished by the Negro’s frustration over the continued existence of racial discrimination, this movement is made up of people who have lost faith in America, who have absolutely repudiated Christianity, and who have concluded that the white man is an incorrigible “devil.”
I have tried to stand between these two forces, saying that we need emulate neither the “do nothingism” of the complacent nor the hatred and despair of the black nationalist. For there is the more excellent way of love and nonviolent protest. I am grateful to God that, through the influence of the Negro church, the way of nonviolence became an integral part of our struggle. If this philosophy had not emerged, by now many streets of the South would, I am convinced, be flowing with blood. And I am further convinced that if our white brothers dismiss as “rabble rousers” and “outside agitators” those of us who employ nonviolent direct action, and if they refuse to support our nonviolent efforts, millions of Negroes will, out of frustration and despair, seek solace and security in black nationalist ideologies–a development that would inevitably lead to a frightening racial nightmare.
Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. The yearning for freedom eventually manifests itself, and that is what has happened to the American Negro. Something within has reminded him of his birthright of freedom, and something without has reminded him that it can be gained. Consciously or unconsciously, he has been caught up by the Zeitgeist, and with his black brothers of Africa and his brown and yellow brothers of Asia, South America and the Caribbean, the United States Negro is moving with a sense of great urgency toward the promised land of racial justice. If one recognizes this vital urge that has engulfed the Negro community, one should readily understand why public demonstrations are taking place. The Negro has many pent up resentments and latent frustrations, and he must release them. So let him march; let him make prayer pilgrimages to the city hall; let him go on freedom rides -and try to understand why he must do so. If his repressed emotions are not released in nonviolent ways, they will seek expression through violence; this is not a threat but a fact of history. So I have not said to my people: “Get rid of your discontent.” Rather, I have tried to say that this normal and healthy discontent can be channeled into the creative outlet of nonviolent direct action. And now this approach is being termed extremist. But though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label. Was not Jesus an extremist for love: “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” Was not Amos an extremist for justice: “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream.” Was not Paul an extremist for the Christian gospel: “I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.” Was not Martin Luther an extremist: “Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise, so help me God.” And John Bunyan: “I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience.” And Abraham Lincoln: “This nation cannot survive half slave and half free.” And Thomas Jefferson: “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal . . .” So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice? In that dramatic scene on Calvary’s hill three men were crucified. We must never forget that all three were crucified for the same crime–the crime of extremism. Two were extremists for immorality, and thus fell below their environment. The other, Jesus Christ, was an extremist for love, truth and goodness, and thereby rose above his environment. Perhaps the South, the nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.
I had hoped that the white moderate would see this need. Perhaps I was too optimistic; perhaps I expected too much. I suppose I should have realized that few members of the oppressor race can understand the deep groans and passionate yearnings of the oppressed race, and still fewer have the vision to see that injustice must be rooted out by strong, persistent and determined action. I am thankful, however, that some of our white brothers in the South have grasped the meaning of this social revolution and committed themselves to it. They are still all too few in quantity, but they are big in quality. Some -such as Ralph McGill, Lillian Smith, Harry Golden, James McBride Dabbs, Ann Braden and Sarah Patton Boyle–have written about our struggle in eloquent and prophetic terms. Others have marched with us down nameless streets of the South. They have languished in filthy, roach infested jails, suffering the abuse and brutality of policemen who view them as “dirty nigger-lovers.” Unlike so many of their moderate brothers and sisters, they have recognized the urgency of the moment and sensed the need for powerful “action” antidotes to combat the disease of segregation. Let me take note of my other major disappointment. I have been so greatly disappointed with the white church and its leadership. Of course, there are some notable exceptions. I am not unmindful of the fact that each of you has taken some significant stands on this issue. I commend you, Reverend Stallings, for your Christian stand on this past Sunday, in welcoming Negroes to your worship service on a nonsegregated basis. I commend the Catholic leaders of this state for integrating Spring Hill College several years ago.
But despite these notable exceptions, I must honestly reiterate that I have been disappointed with the church. I do not say this as one of those negative critics who can always find something wrong with the church. I say this as a minister of the gospel, who loves the church; who was nurtured in its bosom; who has been sustained by its spiritual blessings and who will remain true to it as long as the cord of life shall lengthen.
When I was suddenly catapulted into the leadership of the bus protest in Montgomery, Alabama, a few years ago, I felt we would be supported by the white church. I felt that the white ministers, priests and rabbis of the South would be among our strongest allies. Instead, some have been outright opponents, refusing to understand the freedom movement and misrepresenting its leaders; all too many others have been more cautious than courageous and have remained silent behind the anesthetizing security of stained glass windows.
In spite of my shattered dreams, I came to Birmingham with the hope that the white religious leadership of this community would see the justice of our cause and, with deep moral concern, would serve as the channel through which our just grievances could reach the power structure. I had hoped that each of you would understand. But again I have been disappointed.
I have heard numerous southern religious leaders admonish their worshipers to comply with a desegregation decision because it is the law, but I have longed to hear white ministers declare: “Follow this decree because integration is morally right and because the Negro is your brother.” In the midst of blatant injustices inflicted upon the Negro, I have watched white churchmen stand on the sideline and mouth pious irrelevancies and sanctimonious trivialities. In the midst of a mighty struggle to rid our nation of racial and economic injustice, I have heard many ministers say: “Those are social issues, with which the gospel has no real concern.” And I have watched many churches commit themselves to a completely other worldly religion which makes a strange, un-Biblical distinction between body and soul, between the sacred and the secular.
I have traveled the length and breadth of Alabama, Mississippi and all the other southern states. On sweltering summer days and crisp autumn mornings I have looked at the South’s beautiful churches with their lofty spires pointing heavenward. I have beheld the impressive outlines of her massive religious education buildings. Over and over I have found myself asking: “What kind of people worship here? Who is their God? Where were their voices when the lips of Governor Barnett dripped with words of interposition and nullification? Where were they when Governor Wallace gave a clarion call for defiance and hatred? Where were their voices of support when bruised and weary Negro men and women decided to rise from the dark dungeons of complacency to the bright hills of creative protest?”
Yes, these questions are still in my mind. In deep disappointment I have wept over the laxity of the church. But be assured that my tears have been tears of love. There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love. Yes, I love the church. How could I do otherwise? I am in the rather unique position of being the son, the grandson and the great grandson of preachers. Yes, I see the church as the body of Christ. But, oh! How we have blemished and scarred that body through social neglect and through fear of being nonconformists.
There was a time when the church was very powerful–in the time when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society. Whenever the early Christians entered a town, the people in power became disturbed and immediately sought to convict the Christians for being “disturbers of the peace” and “outside agitators.”‘ But the Christians pressed on, in the conviction that they were “a colony of heaven,” called to obey God rather than man. Small in number, they were big in commitment. They were too God-intoxicated to be “astronomically intimidated.” By their effort and example they brought an end to such ancient evils as infanticide and gladiatorial contests. Things are different now. So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. So often it is an archdefender of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church’s silent–and often even vocal–sanction of things as they are.
But the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If today’s church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century. Every day I meet young people whose disappointment with the church has turned into outright disgust.
Perhaps I have once again been too optimistic. Is organized religion too inextricably bound to the status quo to save our nation and the world? Perhaps I must turn my faith to the inner spiritual church, the church within the church, as the true ekklesia and the hope of the world. But again I am thankful to God that some noble souls from the ranks of organized religion have broken loose from the paralyzing chains of conformity and joined us as active partners in the struggle for freedom. They have left their secure congregations and walked the streets of Albany, Georgia, with us. They have gone down the highways of the South on tortuous rides for freedom. Yes, they have gone to jail with us. Some have been dismissed from their churches, have lost the support of their bishops and fellow ministers. But they have acted in the faith that right defeated is stronger than evil triumphant. Their witness has been the spiritual salt that has preserved the true meaning of the gospel in these troubled times. They have carved a tunnel of hope through the dark mountain of disappointment. I hope the church as a whole will meet the challenge of this decisive hour. But even if the church does not come to the aid of justice, I have no despair about the future. I have no fear about the outcome of our struggle in Birmingham, even if our motives are at present misunderstood. We will reach the goal of freedom in Birmingham and all over the nation, because the goal of America is freedom. Abused and scorned though we may be, our destiny is tied up with America’s destiny. Before the pilgrims landed at Plymouth, we were here. Before the pen of Jefferson etched the majestic words of the Declaration of Independence across the pages of history, we were here. For more than two centuries our forebears labored in this country without wages; they made cotton king; they built the homes of their masters while suffering gross injustice and shameful humiliation -and yet out of a bottomless vitality they continued to thrive and develop. If the inexpressible cruelties of slavery could not stop us, the opposition we now face will surely fail. We will win our freedom because the sacred heritage of our nation and the eternal will of God are embodied in our echoing demands. Before closing I feel impelled to mention one other point in your statement that has troubled me profoundly. You warmly commended the Birmingham police force for keeping “order” and “preventing violence.” I doubt that you would have so warmly commended the police force if you had seen its dogs sinking their teeth into unarmed, nonviolent Negroes. I doubt that you would so quickly commend the policemen if you were to observe their ugly and inhumane treatment of Negroes here in the city jail; if you were to watch them push and curse old Negro women and young Negro girls; if you were to see them slap and kick old Negro men and young boys; if you were to observe them, as they did on two occasions, refuse to give us food because we wanted to sing our grace together. I cannot join you in your praise of the Birmingham police department.
It is true that the police have exercised a degree of discipline in handling the demonstrators. In this sense they have conducted themselves rather “nonviolently” in public. But for what purpose? To preserve the evil system of segregation. Over the past few years I have consistently preached that nonviolence demands that the means we use must be as pure as the ends we seek. I have tried to make clear that it is wrong to use immoral means to attain moral ends. But now I must affirm that it is just as wrong, or perhaps even more so, to use moral means to preserve immoral ends. Perhaps Mr. Connor and his policemen have been rather nonviolent in public, as was Chief Pritchett in Albany, Georgia, but they have used the moral means of nonviolence to maintain the immoral end of racial injustice. As T. S. Eliot has said: “The last temptation is the greatest treason: To do the right deed for the wrong reason.”
I wish you had commended the Negro sit inners and demonstrators of Birmingham for their sublime courage, their willingness to suffer and their amazing discipline in the midst of great provocation. One day the South will recognize its real heroes. They will be the James Merediths, with the noble sense of purpose that enables them to face jeering and hostile mobs, and with the agonizing loneliness that characterizes the life of the pioneer. They will be old, oppressed, battered Negro women, symbolized in a seventy two year old woman in Montgomery, Alabama, who rose up with a sense of dignity and with her people decided not to ride segregated buses, and who responded with ungrammatical profundity to one who inquired about her weariness: “My feets is tired, but my soul is at rest.” They will be the young high school and college students, the young ministers of the gospel and a host of their elders, courageously and nonviolently sitting in at lunch counters and willingly going to jail for conscience’ sake. One day the South will know that when these disinherited children of God sat down at lunch counters, they were in reality standing up for what is best in the American dream and for the most sacred values in our Judaeo Christian heritage, thereby bringing our nation back to those great wells of democracy which were dug deep by the founding fathers in their formulation of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.
Never before have I written so long a letter. I’m afraid it is much too long to take your precious time. I can assure you that it would have been much shorter if I had been writing from a comfortable desk, but what else can one do when he is alone in a narrow jail cell, other than write long letters, think long thoughts and pray long prayers?
If I have said anything in this letter that overstates the truth and indicates an unreasonable impatience, I beg you to forgive me. If I have said anything that understates the truth and indicates my having a patience that allows me to settle for anything less than brotherhood, I beg God to forgive me.
I hope this letter finds you strong in the faith. I also hope that circumstances will soon make it possible for me to meet each of you, not as an integrationist or a civil-rights leader but as a fellow clergyman and a Christian brother. Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear drenched communities, and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty.

Yours for the cause of Peace and Brotherhood, 
Martin Luther King, Jr