“Birmingham, Baseball, and Blessings” | Blog #17

“Birmingham, Baseball, and Blessings” | Blog #17

Picture gallery at the bottom of the blog!

Monday morning broke sunny and fine with a breakfast meeting on the agenda. Rev. Kevin Long is the newly installed pastor at Birmingham’s venerable Independent Presbyterian Church. It’s Jane McDow’s home church and I knew it for many years as one of my APC members’ sisters was the long-time DCE. Kevin was called there last fall and I wanted to check in and see how it was going. 

I first met Kevin when he was fresh out of Pittsburgh Seminary, well over a decade ago, in the Company of New Pastors program offered by the PCUSA’s Office of Theology and Worship. The program was, IMHO, one of the best in the church. It invited newly graduated seminary students from around the denomination’s 10 seminaries to gather in geographical cohorts facilitated by seasoned pastors and, for the first four years of ministry, meet a couple times of year to build community, learn rhythms of ministry to sustain them over the years, and have a safe place to vent and process the challenges of becoming a pastor. I was invited to be one of the facilitators and paired with the exceptionally gifted Rev. Anne H. K. Apple of Idlewild Presbyterian Church, Memphis to oversee the “Mid-South” Cohort that stretched from Indianapolis in the north to Columbus, MS in the south, to Memphis in the west and Manchester, TN in the east. In all there were nearly a dozen of us, and members included students from Austin, Columbia, Louisville, Pittsburgh, and Union (Richmond) Seminaries. It was a diverse group. Kevin had grown up in Pittsburgh where his dad had been a much beloved pastor at a large church, but who had moved to North Avenue Pres in Atlanta when Kevin was in HS or College. When we started the Company of New Pastor meetings, he was in in his first call as an Associate Pastor in Indianapolis, but by the end of our four years he had been called as pastor of the Sewickley PC in a northern suburb of Pittsburgh. We’d not seen each other since then, so connecting over breakfast at the Tutwiler Hotel where I was staying was great fun. 

Mondays are such a bummer for a guy who likes going to museums! The Civil Rights museum in Birmingham was closed as was the 16th Street Baptist Church. I’ve toured the former, but had hoped to visit that later, so I had to satisfy myself with a walk around the exterior. The statue outside of Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fred_Shuttlesworth) reminded me of this great un-sung hero of the Civil Rights struggle who was an important ally and aid to King. I first came to appreciate Shuttlesworth’s contribution in reading Diane McWhorter’s prize-winning Carry Me Home: Birmingham, Alabama, the Climactic Battle of the Civil Rights Revolution (https://www.amazon.com/Carry-Home-Birmingham-Climactic-Revolution/dp/1476709513/ref=asc_df_1476709513?tag=bingshoppinga-20&linkCode=df0&hvadid=80126967064947&hvnetw=o&hvqmt=e&hvbmt=be&hvdev=c&hvlocint=&hvlocphy=&hvtargid=pla-4583726542016690&psc=1).

Coming home to Nashville I was greeted by Amy, Leah, and the pets and grateful for a night’s sleep in my own bed after four nights in four different beds. Tuesday’s agenda was simple: lunch with friends at Vui’s Kitchen to introduce one to Vietnamese pho, and the Vandy v Indiana State game with Leah in the evening. The morning, as most mornings, was spent reading.

The Vandy game was thrilling. Surprisingly the Sycamores jumped out to an early lead and were up 7-4 going into the bottom of the 9th. The ‘Dores clawed back two runs. Then, with one out, our lead-off, Enrique Bradfield, got on after going for oh-for-five on the night. He moved to second on a sac bunt by Diaz. Spencer Jones, the 6’7” right fielder singled for his 6th hit of the night to move Enrique to 3rd. Two outs with men on first and third. Enrique is a menace on the bases. Going into the game he’d swiped 33 bases out of 33 tries. I assume coach called the play but as Spencer danced on 1st to distract the Sycamore’s big left hander’s attention, Enrique headed home, and Spencer took off to 2nd executing a perfect double steal; Bradfield slid home to tie the game before the pitcher knew where to throw. Leah had to leave to take care of a dog, so we left at the end of 10 with the score still tied and listened to the Vandy win on radio. It was one of the most exciting sports moments I’ve seen, and Enrique got #3 on ESPN’s top 10. My ear is still ringing from Leah’s yelling! 

Such a blessing to spend time with Leah in these days home. Last night I played Uber so she and Nellie Renwick could go to the NSC v Atlanta soccer match. NSC came back from a 0-2 deficit to tie in the last minute and win in overtime. 

She and I head to Knoxville today to see the #1 Vols take on UGA tonight. I’ve wanted to see a game at Lindsey Nelson ever since the Vols started coming on last year. Amy’s nephew, Eric Haag, lives in Knoxville with Tyra and their three boys. Both Eric and Tyra work for UT, their alma mater (along with Amy, her 3 siblings, and three nephews), so it will be great to see them and their boys and be there for the middle son, Brenton’s birthday tomorrow.