There are pastors that will never be recognized with some great award or commendation. Still, they demonstrate resilience and dedication to duty despite a diminishing congregation. The Rev. James Short is just such a pastor and True Faith Baptist Church is one such ministry.
A small, inner-city church, True Faith once was thriving with the life and vibrancy of a growing, emergent gathering of believers. Now, there are only a faithful few, most elderly. Children who grew up in True Faith have moved off, raising families in other places. Pillars of the church in its heyday have passed on.
Despite serious health challenges this year, on Sunday Pastor Short stood in his pulpit for his final sermon of 2019 declaring, “I press on”
Drawing upon his 80 years of living, Short said, he had learned that, “you can’t live today dwelling on what happened yesterday. You can’t live in the past and the present at the same time. A brand, new year is coming, and the Lord has kept us thus far. We’ve got to press on and look forward to what is in store tomorrow.”
His story began in Indianola, Miss., the county seat of Sunflower County. He blended into his sermon references to tough times, making his ongoing resolve crystal clear.
“Yes, Trump is still president, but I press on. Yes, picking cotton wasn’t much of a life, and white folk treated us bad, but I press on. Yes, they wouldn’t let us vote though the Voter Rights Act had been passed, but I press on forgetting those things which are behind me.
“And forgetting, brothers and sisters, means forgiving. You can’t truly forget the wrongs of the past without forgiving others for what happened back then.”
Pastor Short left Indianola like thousands of other Mississippians fleeing the harsh and oppressive life of sharecropping, settling in Memphis. He retired from an impressive and benevolent career of social work, winning professional acclaim among his peers and clientele. Becoming a pastor was a natural continuation of caring for others and serving his community.
Following his last sermon of the year, musicians struck up his favorite song, “I’m Going Home on the Morning Train.”
I’m going home on the morning train
I’m going home on the morning train…
I’m going home, I’m going home,
I’m going home on the morning train.
Evening train might be too late
Evening train might be too late…
Evening train, evening train,
Evening train might be too late.
Back back train and get your load
Back back train and get your load…
Back back train, back back train,
Back back train and get your load.
A couple of two-year-olds jumped up and danced around to the lively tune. The congregation stood, joined in, sang and clapped as the babies run over to dance near the drums and other instruments. The music softened as Short gave the benediction. The music came back up and the children continued to dance.
Pastor Short leaned over the microphone to say something else.
“I just want to say that it fills my heart to see these children up here dancing for joy in front of this church,” he said. “It’s been a long time since we had babies in the church. I just love seeing them dancing for the Lord.”
The dancing toddlers seemed a perfect metaphor for pressing on with hope for the coming year – new life for True Faith in 2020.