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Monday, October 27, 2014

Pastorgraphs: “Dr. Jon McCoy”

E-Vangel Newsletter
October 27, 2014

Christ United Methodist Ministry Center
“Christ in the Heart of San Diego”
3295 Meade Avenue - San Diego, CA 92116 - (619) 284-9205

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Exodus Parish

Pastorgraphs: “Dr. Jon McCoy”

I continue to be amazed, but no longer surprised, by the providence of God. They are “God things” because there is no way they are coincidences, but tangible evidence of God at work in our lives.

From the beginning, God has brought just the right individuals, congregations and organizations into the fabric of what is now Christ Ministry Center. It happened again last week.

A few weeks ago, the Rev. Dr. Jon McCoy, pastor of Hinsdale UMC in Hinsdale, IL (a suburb of Chicago) called. He just happened to be in his hometown of Yazoo City, MS visiting his father, a retired pastor, when he read a story in the Yazoo Herald about Christ Ministry Center and my trip to Sojourners. The more we talked, the more we realized how much we have in common.

We did not know each other growing up. We both graduated from Yazoo City High (two decades apart – me in the mid-60s and Jon in the mid-80s) and went on to earn doctorates. Jon earned a Ph.D. from the University of Illinois. He worked at Yazoo City’s radio station, WAZF. So did I.

In addition to having the same small hometown, Dr. McCoy and I became United Methodist elders. We both serve “cross cultural” appointments (a Methodist term where the pastor’s ethnicity is different from the majority of the congregation). Both our mothers were faithful educators in the Yazoo City public school system. McCoy Elementary School is named in honor of Dr. McCoy’s late mother. Dr. McCoy’s father still lives in Yazoo City as does my mother. I’m sure there are other parallels, but you see what I mean. 
In his initial call, Rev. McCoy said he was coming to San Diego in October to attend the “Sticky Teams 2014 Conference” at North Coast Church in Vista and wanted to worship with us and learn more about CMC and The Fount. Dr. McCoy and his wife, Robbye, (an OB-GYN physician at Northwestern Hospital), attended worship at Exodus Church last week when Anita and I were in Simi Valley. Last Monday night, Anita, Chris and I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. McCoy for dinner. (Robbye had to return to Chicago.)

We immediately hit it off, sharing notes on people we remember from Old Yazoo. Despite me being almost 20 years older, we had some of the same high school teachers.

Oh yes, I’m now beginning to input data into The Fount for the second major US metropolitan area. Guess where? Chicago, of course! Plus, Dr. McCoy is familiar with the ministry established in Chicago in the 1960s by Dr. Ray Bakke, pioneer and world-recognized authority on modern urban ministry. (Dr. Bakke is now living in Seattle, and has communicated with me about his interest in CMC and The Fount.)

By the time we got home, Jon had already communicated with his Bishop in Chicago, who immediately replied and connected me with Chicago’s Methodist urban ministry leaders. Pastor Owens of Exodus Church is planning a family trip to Chicago next year and will reconnect with Dr. McCoy. I foresee a trip to Chicago soon as well.

The way Jon McCoy and I connected after all these years reminded me of Willie Morris who grew up in Yazoo City two decades before me. Like Jon and me, he too graduated from Yazoo City High and worked at WAZF. He was a Rhodes Scholar, became the youngest editor ever of Harper’s Magazine, and won numerous literary awards for his books and short stories about the Deep South, including his autobiographical book and movie, “My Dog Skip”.

There is a theme in “My Dog Skip” where Willie, as a young boy, idolizes his older neighbor Dink Jenkins, a local sports hero who went off to fight in World War II.

In one scene, young Willie tells his best buddy Sammy about Dink. “He's only the best ballplayer anywhere around here. Ever.” Sammy replied, “Well, you haven't seen Waldo Grace.” The reason Willie and Sammy never saw Dink, who was white, and Waldo, who was black, play in the same game was because of 1940s segregation.

The story is a coming-of-age classic in which Dink and Willie reconcile their broken relationship. Willie has to deal with learning his hero Dink returned home a battlefield coward, not the sports hero in his nine-year-old eyes. And in a touching scene at the end, Willie finally gets to see Waldo Grace play baseball. By overcoming the cultural lines that divided the races and the town, Willie connects with a new hero from the other side of Yazoo.

I would like to think had Jon and I grown up together we would have become friends much earlier, and experience divine fellowship as Jon and I have now done.
In Christ’s Service, Bill Jenkins

From The Quote Garden:
“The real challenge facing the world is not geographic distance but cultural distance. I think of Jackson, Mississippi as a father to Chicago, because a million and a half black people from Mississippi came here. Poland is our mother, because 840,000 Poles came to Chicago -- 100,000 more Poles than San Francisco has people. We have all kinds of cultures in our cities. How are we going to live together and work together?"
~ Ray Bakke, Fast Company magazine (December 1998)


Photo credit: Dr. Jon McCoy and Bill Jenkins with my book, “Mississippi Methodist Churches: 200 Years of Heritage and Hope”.

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