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The Lord’s Day

in 1970s/1973/Look back in history/Main Stream by

IT IS A COMMON CUSTOM for us to memorialize those days that are important to us. Birthdays and wedding anniversaries illustrate this. Nationally, we celebrate Christmas to honor the supposed birth of Christ and Easter to honor His Resurrection. And, of course, there is an abundance of other national holidays: George Washington’s and Martin Luther King’s birthday anniversaries, Columbus Day, Armistice Day, Thanksgiving Day. Each of these days represents something deeply significant to the nation. However, none of them are rooted in Bible requirement. There is simply no command in either the Old Testament or the New that we set aside a day to commemorate any of the above listed events.

There are, however, three events that we are commanded to memorialize. So meaningful are these events that the God of heaven does not want us to forget them. He, therefore, prescribed the ritual by which they must be celebrated.

The first event is Christ’s Crucifixion. “Without shedding of blood is no remission” (Hebrews 9:22). It was at the cross that Christ opened the door that made possible salvation to all mankind. He bore our shame that we might share His glory. Someone had to pay for the sin of man. Rightfully, man should have died for his own transgressions. But the love of God was so deep and strong that Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, placed Himself at the bar of justice in man’s stead. This significant event we must never forget.

Our Lord directed, “This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me.” This commandment was given after “he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it” (Luke 22:19). Later He took the cup and offered it for drink. This was the Communion Service. “Do this in remembrance of me,” Christ said. The Lord’s Supper is, therefore, a memorial of the death of Jesus Christ at Calvary for our sins.

The second event, baptism, memorializes His Resurrection. “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:3, 4). Christ wants His Resurrection to be remembered. Thus by the significant act of immersion we commemorate His burial, and when we lift the candidate out of the water, we signify His Resurrection. Therefore, the Christian is to “walk in newness of life.”

The third act of God that requires a memorial is the Creation of the world. The God of heaven, in His wisdom, knew that the day would come when man would challenge this Biblical story. He, therefore, set in motion a weekly memorial of this creative act so that men would never forget their Creator. And, therefore, to counteract the evolutionary trends that would engulf the earth in the latter days, our Lord commanded,

“Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: but the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, . . . for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it” (Exodus 20: 8-11 ) .

Thus the Great Creator carved for Himself a temple in time, of twenty-four hours. It was the last day of the week—the seventh day. Every time it rolls around, the seventh day repeats the message, “God made heaven and earth.”

The Biblical description of this day is very interesting. It is called “the sabbath of the Lord” (Exodus 20:10) and “my holy day” (Isaiah 58:13). Christ designates Himself as “Lord also of the sabbath” (Mark 2:28). Therefore, when we read, “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day” (Revelation 1:10), it can refer to no other day than the Sabbath Day, the seventh day of the week, commonly called Saturday.

This day alone enjoys the distinction of being labeled in the Scriptures “the Lord’s day.” Matthew 28:1 indicates that it is the day just before the first day of the week—Saturday, the last day, is the day before Sunday, the first day. Mark 15:42 tells us that the Sabbath follows the day of the preparation. Friday is preparation day.

After all these years since Creation, God has not let His holy day get lost. There are still seven days in the week. The seventh day is the last day of the week, and that day is named Saturday. God calls it His Sabbath and commands all men everywhere to remember it and keep it holy. The logic of this is almost inescapable. Is it not true that we rest after we have worked? That is one good reason for the Sabbath to come at the end of the week.

“Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: but the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God.” Some raise the rather logical question that since man named the days and man indeed invented the calendar, is it not possible that he got the days scrambled somehow in history? The Bible gives the answer: “I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it: that men should fear before him. That which hath been is now; and that which is to be hath already been; and God requireth that which is past” (Ecclesiastes 3:14, 15).

From this text the conclusion is evident. Man does not have the power to do away with anything God has created. But others raise the question Did not Jesus Himself, by coming forth from the tomb on Sunday, do away with the Sabbath, thus nailing it to the cross? The answer comes from the lips of Christ Himself: “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:17-19).

In this passage Christ emphatically states that as long as the heavens are above and the earth is beneath, nothing will pass from the law. Thank God the heavens are still above us and the earth beneath us! It is clear then from the lips of Christ Himself that the seventh-day Sabbath is still His holy day, as He made it.

It was He who blessed and sanctified the Sabbath. It was He, Jesus Christ, who created the worlds. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:1-3). Christ made the Sabbath by blessing it and sanctifying it (Genesis 2:2, 3). Ecclesiastes 3:14 says that “whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever.” But how did the custom of Sunday observance begin? Why is it that so few people keep the Biblical Lord’s Day and so many worship God on the first day of the week? The answer is rooted deeply in history. Early in the second century, Sunday was observed in honor of the Resurrection of the Lord. This annual observance was called Easter. It is still with us today. It was celebrated then once a year as it is now. About A.D. 200, a man named Victor proposed that penalties be assessed to anyone who refused to respect the annual festival of the Resurrection. The celebration of the Resurrection became so popular that it was changed from an annual observance to a weekly one. Emperor Constantine, in the fourth century, proclaimed to all civil servants that they were to cease from their work on Sunday and work on Saturday. He enlarged his 8 THE MESSAGE MAGAZINE—November-December, 1973 law in March, A.D. 321, to cover the whole Roman empire. Thus Sunday-keeping became civil law and was enforced by the power of the state. The religious law kept pace with civil law and in c. A.D. 336 the church adopted the law of the state at the Council of Laodicea. On January 18, 1562, at the Council of Trent, the church reaffirmed her decision after a speech by Caspar del Fusso, archbishop of Rheggio. Thus Sunday was propagated on a round world by the church and enforced by the state. Right here in America, in early New England, men were literally put in jails, flogged, and put in the stocks for working on Sunday. But the Bible still says, “The seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God.” Thus God’s Word has remained unchanged and His will for man unaltered. “My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips” (Psalm 89:34). “I am the Lord, I change not” (Malachi 3:6). This probably explains why all the disciples, the early founders of the Christian church, were strict observers of the Bible Sabbath. “And when the Jews were gone out of the synagogue, the Gentiles besought that these words might be preached to them the next sabbath. . . . And the next sabbath day came almost the whole city together to hear the word of God” (Acts 13:42-44). “And he reasoned in the synagogue every sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks” (Acts 18:4). In conclusion, it should be understood that in all of this we are simply following the example of our Lord. Sacred Scripture states clearly that “he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read” (Luke 4:16); “and came down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee, and taught them on the sabbath days” (Luke 4:31). Christ attended the Temple on the Sabbath Day. A good question is, Where does the Sabbath of the Bible find you? May I state here that I am well aware that there are thousands of Christ-loving disciples worshiping on the wrong day. This message is an appeal to the conscience of the born-again Christian. To the sinner I would say, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 2:38). To sinful man the invitation from Christ is, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls” (Matthew 11:28, 29). Yes, to the sinner I would say, “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). And I would appeal to you to accept Christ as your Saviour, embrace Him as your Lord, and acknowledge Him as your King. If you will allow the Holy Spirit to dwell in your hearts by faith, that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in you, then you will not walk after the flesh but after the Spirit. Once this happens, you are born again and you are, indeed, in the family of God. It is then that I would say to you in the language of Jesus, “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). And the Sabbath of the Lord, known as the Lord’s Day, is at the very heart of His law of love. Saved people live disciplined lives, and the Ten Commandment law is a verbal description of the new life-style. Will you not order your life now by the grace of God to be in harmony with the revealed will of God?

A Place Called Oakwood

in 2008/Look back in history by


QAKWOOD COLLEGE, LOCATED IN Huntsville, Alabama, the only historically Black col­lege of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, is a premier educational institution. It ranks among the top IO schools in the nation that graduate students who continue on to medical school, and is also among the top 25 schools that graduate students who go on to complete dental school. According to the U. S. News and World Report, Oakwood has ranked among America’s best colleges in the Southern Region for IO consecutive years. It also has the distinction of being a leader in technology, collaborating with its neighbor NASA in groundbreaking research. Oakwood College’s alumni, hailing from more than 30 countries, are providing invaluable service to the church, the community, the country, and the world at large. Oakwood’s programs are designed to prepare students to face the challenges of modern life. The New Beginnings Single Parent Resource Center assists single parents who have chal­lenges to completing their college degrees. Also, as of this year, 2008, Oakwood has received accreditation approval for its first graduate level program, the Master in Pastoral Studies. Oakwood’s physical campus is also seeing many changes with the addition of the Bradford-Cleveland-Brooks Leadership Center (BCBLC) and the construction of a state of the art men’s residential hall. Recently, a Monument to Service Memorial was established along with an eternal flame, both representing Oakwood’s dedica­tion of service to humanity through the example of Jesus Christ.

NOT MUCH PROMISE Indeed, Oakwood College and its accomplishments are now legendary. Its beginnings, how­ever, seemed less than promising. The year was 1896. A 360-acre plot in Huntsville, Alabama, the site of a former slave plantation, was chosen as a location for the first Seventh-day Adventist advanced school for Blacks. The Alabama landscape was sloping and uneven; the red clay was hard as granite; dense brush encircled the property; the limbs of the trees sagged; derelict brush lay strewn all over; and the soil was barren from having been overworked. It took vision and faith to see a future in this unpromising plot in Alabama in the heart of the South 30 years after the Civil War. To make matters more challenging, barely enough funds were on hand to buy the property, let alone start a school. The General Conference was pressed for money, and the church leaders would be slow to funnel funds into an enterprise such as this. Conditions did not look good. In the midst of this challenging situation, a clarion voice was heard. It was a voice that spoke for God, convinced that this was the spot the Lord would have the denomination pur­chase for a school to train Blacks to be workers in His vineyard.

From the start Ellen G. White championed Oakwood’s cause. Unquestionably she is worthy of the title “cofounder of Oakwood College.” Throughout the subsequent years as Oakwood grew, Ellen White continually spoke out for the school. She did all in her power to make sure it prospered, writing, visiting, prodding, sacrificing, praying, donating, advocating, and crying for the then fledgling institution to fulfill its God-given destiny. As a result of her efforts and the sustained support of the General Conference and the world field, and subsequently the support of the Regional Conferences, Oakwood College is the success it is today.

CHRONICLES OF PROVIDENCE During its uoth anniversary year, Oakwood College collaborated with the Ellen G. White Estate to compile all of Mrs. White’s statements on Oakwood College. The project was at once enjoyable and daunting. It was ultimately fulfilling, though, and in doing it one could see clearly how God has led the Seventh-day Adventist Church and His plans for its educational institutions. From Oakwood’s founding to her death, Ellen White sat on the school’s board. Her counsel to Oakwood, found in speeches, letters, articles, diary entries, and books, can be applied to any educational institution, as well as the personal life of a Christian. Ellen White’s writings about Oakwood can be divided into five categories:

  • Circle of Providence: From its start God initiated His divine providence in the development and operation of Oakwood.
  • Conditions with Appeal: Mrs. White saw Oakwood as a place deserving of denominational funds and personal monetary sacrifice.
  • Support Educational Progress: Ellen White constantly pied for financial, spiritual, and missionary support on behalf of Oakwood and its Christian educational ministry.
  • Well-Rounded Instruction: Ellen White conveyed inspired directives about leadership, administra­tion, operation, curricu­lum, and other areas of Christian education.
  • Service Focus: She made successful appeals  to the students and workers of Oakwood to be spiritual, to evangelize the world, and to be constant in self-improvement.

Perhaps Ellen White’s oft-quoted 1904 statement at Oakwood best reveals God’s interest in this school, her pas­sion for its success, and the rich portents in the days ahead: “I am so pleased to see the colored students who are here today. I wish that there were a hundred of them, as it has been presented to me that there should be ….

“In regard to this school here at Huntsville, I wish to say that for the past two or three years I have been receiving instruction regarding it-what it should be and what those who come here as students are to become. All that is done by those connected with this school, whether they be White or Black, is to be done with the realization that this is the Lord’s institution, in which the students are to be taught how to cul­tivate the land, and how to labor for the uplifting of their own people” (The Gospel Herald, June 1, 1904). The recently established bronze Monument to Service created by sculptor Alan Collins now provides a 24/7/365 witness to the legacy of service of this place called Oakwood. It is beautiful to see through the pen of Ellen White and history how God established Oakwood and led it to where it is today. Oakwood’s success and God’s divine guidance are inextricably linked.


BENJAMIN BAKER is the author of A Place Called Oakwood, a comprehensive compilation of Ellen White’s statements on Oakwood College. He writes from Hyattsville, Maryland.

The God of Martin Luther King, Jr.

in 1988/Look back in history by

February is the month for honor­ing Black history in America. Since White history and culture are taken for granted during the other 11 months through the various forms of media, it is important for at least one month of the year to be given over in part to the celebration of those aspects of our history, culture, and peo­ple that have for too long been neglected-namely, the Black experience in America. One of the high historical points of Black history is the life and contribu­tions of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. For besides having profound historical im­pact, he was a great lover of human­kind, who taught America and the world the significance and importance of love, especially for those who have been the least recipients of it.

If there was one thing that characterized the life of Dr. King, it was his desire to lead a life of loving, selfless service to others. Thus two months before his assassination, King gave a sermon to his congregation in Atlanta entitled “The Drum Major Instinct.” It is that instinct to be first, to be out in front leading the parade, to be number one. It is an innate instinct that rules individuals and nations. For King, however, the drum major instinct was not totally negative. Rightly directed and focused, life. Sensing that the end of his own life was imminent, King, in this sermon, alluded to his death and funeral and how he wanted to be remembered. He said: “If any of you are around when I have to meet my day, I don’t want a long funeral. And if you get somebody to deliver the eulogy, tell him not to talk too long. “And every now and then I wonder what I want him to say. Tell him not to mention that I have a Nobel Peace Prize. That isn’t so important. Tell him not to mention that I have 300 or 400 other awards-that’s not important. Tell him not to mention where I went to school. “I’d like somebody to mention that day that Martin Luther King, Jr., tried to love somebody. I want you to say that I tried to be right on the war ques- tion. I want you to be able to say that day that I did try to feed the hungry. I want you to say that day that I did try in my life to clothe those ?ho were na-ked. I want you to say on that day that I did try in my life to visit those who were in prison. And I want you to say that I tried to love and serve humanity.

“Yes, if you want to, say that I was a drum major. Say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness. “And all of the other shallow things will not matter. I won’t have any money to leave behind. I won’t have the fine and luxurious things of life to leave behind. But I just want to leave a committed life behind.’

Who was this drum major for justice? What moved him to march to the beat of a different drummer? What was the force in his life that placed him out in front, leading the parade for justice, peace, and righteousness down Main Street, America? Who was this man who became the “conscience” of a nation? What made Dr. King the great lover of mankind that he was? And  where did he learn how to love like that?

The United States now officially celebrates and pays tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr. The focus of this article, however, is not so much on King himself, but on the God whom he served.

Much has been said and written and recorded on film about Martin Luther King, Jr., and on what moved and inspired him to do what he did, not just for Blacks, but for all of humanity, in this country and abroad. He indeed was a world citizen. But at the base of all of King’s actions was his concept of God. It was this more than anything else that made him what he was. What was the God of Martin Luther King like?

God of Love

First of all, more than anything else, King’s God was a God of love. It was this concept of God that became the dominant force in his life. However, before he arrived at this concept of God and the power of His love, King went through an intellectual and emotional crisis that almost shattered his faith in a God relevant to human need.

While a student at Crozer Theological Seminary, in Chester, Pennsylvania, he read the writings of Friedrich Nietzsche, which contained vehement attacks on Christian ethics. Nietzsche attacked the Christian duty to love all humanity as a glorification of weakness. Confronted with this critique of the value of love for social good, King, while still a student at the seminary, had about concluded that Jesus’ ethical message of “turn the other cheek” and “love your enemies” is effective only in conflicts among individuals, but is not useful in resolving conflicts among racial groups and nations.

Commenting later on this period in his development, King explained that perhaps as a result of his study of Nietzsche’s attack on the Hebraic-Christian ethic of love as a glorification of weakness, he had almost despaired of the power of love for solving social problems. Nietzsche argued that we may define goodness as everything that heightens the feeling of power in humankind, and that we may define as bad whatever is born of weakness.

Nietzsche contended that Christianity was more harmful than any vice since it had been made an ideal of anything that contradicts the instinct of the strong for self-preservation. In the midst of this crisis King heard a sermon on Mahatma Gandhi’s life and philosophy by Mordecai Johnson, president of Howard University. This sermon was so inspirational that he read several books on Gandhi. This reading soon restored his original faith in the power of love, and in the God from whom this love originated. King came to recognize that when love pervades nonviolent methods, far from being a symptom of weakness, it is a potent force for social transformation. Years later, in describing the Montgomery Bus boycott, he explained that Christ had furnished the spirit and the motivation while Gandhi had provided the method. “We will return good for evil,” King said. “We will love our enemies. Christ showed us the way, and Gandhi showed us it could work.”

King, following Gandhi, declared that his nonviolent protests were directed against the forces of evil at work in the unjust systems, not against the persons who were involved in administering the systems. He thus could repeat with Augustine that he hated the sin but loved the sinner. Thus the real struggle was not one of racial tension, but a conflict between justice and injustice.

All of this, of course, went back to God, a God who so hates sin that He will destroy it, but also a God who so loves the sinner that He took his place, identified with his condition, and died in his stead. Such an understanding of God and His method as exemplified in the life of Jesus Christ, and in Gandhi’s methods, led King to consistently condemn violence as immoral. It is immoral because it thrives on hatred rather than love. King in effect reaffirmed that one who injures another injures himself spiritually since he disrupts the harmony within his own soul, whereas the soul of his victim may remain intact. Therefore, King, like Jesus and Gandhi before him, urged his followers to love their enemies. But how do you show love to someone who has turned his dogs loose on you? King declared: “When I say love those who oppose you, I am not speaking of love in a sentimental or affectionate sense. It would be nonsense to urge men to love their oppressors in an affectionate sense. When I refer to love at this point, I mean understanding goodwill.”

God of the Oppressed

Since the essence of love is involvement, the God of M. L. King was one who took sides in a conflict. He took sides in the Exodus. He took sides with the prophets in denouncing injustice. He took sides in Jesus Christ against the religious leaders of the time. He is the God of the poor, the harassed, and the downtrodden. He is the God of Elijah, who abhors neutrality in the midst of a moral crisis. King therefore, in harmony with his conception of God, believed and practiced the same.

King expressed his agreement with Dante that the hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in a time of moral crisis preserve their neutrality. For the church to do nothing, or simply focus on personal piety or private sins, in the midst of social, collective injustice was for King the sin of White Protestantism.

He felt the silence of the churches on issues of social injustice and did not understand their refusal to combat oppression, all the while seeing as their major concern the evangelization of individual souls and condemning of the private evils of intemperance, adultery, and sins of the tongue as immoral (see Matthew 23:23, 24).

King’s God hates evil in all its forms, but shows tender love toward the sinner. He is a God who takes sides and is not neutral. He is a God who is against violence as physical aggression, but also systemic violence that gives rise to bursts of frustrated outrage among its victims.

God of Justice

King’s God was also a God who opposed unjust laws. God long ago spoke through the prophet Isaiah: “You are doomed! You make unjust laws that oppress my people. That is how you keep the poor from having their rights and from getting justice. That is how you take the property that belongs to widows and orphans. What will you do when God punishes you? What will you do when he brings disaster on you from a distant country? Where will you run to find help?” (Isaiah 10:1-3, TEV) … In light of this, King saw that violence is systemic when the laws serve only the legislators and those whom they allow to vote; when local legislators pre­serve political and economic power that exceeds their jurisdiction and attempt to block the implementation of federal laws; and when federal legislators ig­nore their obligation to promote the common good. Then the system itself becomes one of the underlying causes of frustration and violence. In view of such misuse of legislative power, King affirmed that any law that upholds seg­regation and degrades human personal­ity is unjust and should be disobeyed. He thus declared: “Laws of this kind are acts of violence rather thari laws. . . . They do not bind in conscience.”

King’s God was a God of justice and mercy, and thus he used every opportunity to call this nation back to the­ principles of justice, liberty, and freedom for all.

As part of his justification for the dis­obedience of unjust laws, King had the example of Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, and Jesus Himself. Augustine had declared that an unjust law is no law at all. Aquinas also declared that an unjust law is a human law that is not based on the eternal, divine law and ought not be obeyed. And Jesus Him­self openly and deliberately disobeyed many of the laws of His day: laws of propriety with women, laws regarding the Sabbath, laws with regard to non­Jews, etc. The honest truth behind civil disobedience for unjust laws was de­clared by Senator Robert Kennedy, after the Watts riot, when he said: “There is no point in telling Negroes to observe the law …. It has almost always been used against them.” King’s God was a God of justice and mercy, and thus he used every opportu­nity to call this nation back to the prin­ciples of justice and liberty and freedom for all, as expressed in the Constitution of the United States. On April 4, 1968, the day he was gunned down by an as­sassin, he was in Memphis, Tennessee, fighting for justice for garbage collec­tors. Like the God whom he worshiped and so faithfully served, he identified with people from all walks of life, lifting them up, giving them a sense of self worth and dignity, even in their labor.

“Whatever your life’s work is,” King declared, “do it well …. If it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures, like Shakespeare wrote poetry, like Beetho­ven composed music; sweep streets so well that all the host of heaven and earth will have to pause and say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper, who swept his job well.”‘ For this, he too gave his life.

Why King?

The question is “Why King?” The God that he worshiped, personally knew, and served faithfully is the same God that we claim to worship, know, and serve. Then what is the difference? If we worship the same God, why the different responses? Why do we not have more M. L. Kings?

I am not all that sure that all of us see God the same way. Our experiences differ. The optics through which we look out on reality, including divine re­ality, are not all the same. The meaning that we give to what we see and read and hear differs, depending on what values we attempt to safeguard.

The response also may be partial, and not total, as was King’s. King was ready to sacrifice all. Like his Master. Are we? The issue at stake, as King declared, is not one of racial tension, but rather a conflict between justice and injustice.

Because they have sold out to reli­gious respectability, some can no longer serve God. Others, because of their pur­suit of power, are careful of what they say and do so as to not mar their well­thought-out and planned career to the top. Still others want a life of comfort and ease and longevity, and don’t want to be bothered with anything so demanding. What is your position? Are you, like King, willing to risk all-your job, your reputation, your life-for right, whatever that may be in your situation?

The time is right and the world is ea­gerly waiting for a profound and genu­ine demonstration of sisterly/brotherly love among God’s people, so that the world may know that “Black, Brown, White together, we shall overcome someday.”


Manuel Sanabria, Ph.D., a minister and specialist in multicultural relations, resides in Chicago.


in 1978/Look back in history by


Students attacked by hoodlums in a troubled section of Boston demonstrate to the world how Christian discipline can triumph over insane and brutal aggression

by Carol Cantu


You’re too isolated,” our guest, Raymond Moore, director of Hewitt Research Center, had told us. “Let people know what you’re doing up here. . . . You need publicity.” He had just closed a summer workshop at Pine Forge Academy in August, 1977. I’m sure he was shocked, as were the rest of us, to find three months later the name of Pine Forge blazing in newspaper headlines and pictured on television news all across the nation.

Unfortunately, the incident that heralded news about Pine Forge was not exactly what Dr. Moore had in mind. Newspapers, radios, and television sets blared this story of violence at Bunker Hill: “Twelve students and two teachers beaten in racially troubled section of Boston.”

Though the facts of this incident are not unlike other racial encounters that have occurred in Boston over the past three years, the circumstances of the unprovoked attack and its implications to Pine Forge made up the greater story missed by the media but caught by us as being more important than the narrative itself.

A little more than a year ago Auldwin Humphrey, principal of Pine Forge Academy, told the student group that one day soon important people would focus their attention on Pine Forge. He had heard no announcement to that end and neither had any member of the faculty and staff, but he said merely that he was impressed this would happen.

The students laughed, for it didn’t seem to them like a plausible thing. From where they sat it was more in the realm of a Cinderella story—glittering and fanciful but out of touch with hard facts and reality. His prayer had been: “Lord send us a miracle.” This phrase rang in my mind for months. Our school needed a miracle to pull us out of the financial doldrums in which we found ourselves, especially after the September registration. Suffering from the results of a fire that completely destroyed our cafeteria, we also had a dramatic downturn in enrollment.

Even with the expertise of John Pitts, the new business manager, who had done a great job for the leprosarium in Sierra Leone, West Africa, Pine Forge would need divine intervention to see it through the financial thickets of an already troubled economy.

After two exasperating months our problem became more acute, and our plans for raising funds had to take on new momentum. Our student body rallied to the needs of the school and gave help in many ways, and these young people seemed unusually mature in their understanding of what was happening to us and to the school.

The spirit on campus was obviously serious and profoundly spiritual. Students as well as staff commented on what they felt was the indication of the Divine Presence among us.

As newly appointed director of public relations (a position certainly created out of need), I immediately busied myself making preliminary contacts with funding agencies. One response that I received on three occasions was that in order for a private institution, especially a high school, to receive money, it had to prove in a substantial way that it offered something unique in the field of secondary education. It must have a program that was not offered in public schools, a program that had proved its worth.

Of course I felt that Pine Forge did offer something unique: It presented “the harmonious development of the physical, the mental, and the spiritual powers.” But how could we measure this success for the benefit of others, and how could we convince, say, a foundation or its fact-finding agencies of the uniqueness of our program?

November 11 marked one year from the time our cafeteria burned. Since the Pottstown Mercury had carried the fire as headline news, we asked the editor to run the story of a solicitation day for which we had organized. We distributed flyers door to door in the city, advising the community of our efforts. On the day planned for solicitation, all preparations were made and everybody was geared to go, but it rained! With great disappointment we rescheduled our plans for the following

Monday, November 15. A group of students who had bookings for a field trip to Boston over the weekend urged us to wait for their return so they could participate. These students promised to include on their educational tour a Pine Forge recruitment program at a local church in Boston and to make a fund-raising contact at a travel agency.

Monday morning, November 15, 1977, began as an exciting day on campus. At the 7:55 worship we prayed fervently for our solicitation day and for the students who were to return that evening from Boston. We anticipated great and unusual developments for Pine Forge.

This was the backdrop against which we received news that four of our students, along with Charles Battles, their teacher, had been assaulted in Boston and were in the hospital being treated for multiple wounds, cuts, and lacerations. Battles had called Principal Humphrey to report the attack, but he was so composed as he related the matter that Humphrey could not imagine it was an incident of the magnitude newsmen later reported.

Battles had said they were to be examined and that he would telephone again on leaving the hospital. Before Battles could make his second call, our lines were jumping with calls from United Press International, Associated Press, and all major newspapers and television stations in the Philadelphia area. Although the media were calling us for information, they were our first real source of comprehensive facts about our students. We didn’t want to believe these reporters; hence we called the Boston police department and the hospital to verify their stories.

To our amazement, both the police department and the emergency personnel had more to say about the character of the students and teachers than about the incident. The police verified that the attack had occurred and gave a brief report on the apparent physical condition of each student. But they then elaborated on the maturity, independence, and spiritual strength of the students. They remarked that the attitude of the students toward their assailants was truly Christian and of a nature not witnessed by them before, especially in the kind of racial incidents that for months had kept Boston in perpetual turmoil. The police expressed hope that the media would capture this spiritual, nonviolent stance of our group.

When I called the hospital emergency room, I received a detailed report on the physical condition of each of our people admitted. Some were still undergoing tests at this point. When the emergency room director completed his report, he said to me, “These students and teachers are a credit to your school. They are demonstrating a training that we rarely see.” He mentioned their maturity and above all the projection of an unusual spiritual insight and moral accountability.

The praises that thus rang in my ear I interpreted as a measure, an evaluation, of the discipline of Christian education. Our philosophy, our aim, “the harmonious development of the physical, the mental, and the spiritual powers,” was tested, and it had scored highly. When the remaining students on campus heard of the incident, their immediate response was silence, then prayer. A depression seemed to grip the entire group at lunchtime; a few began to weep softly. It was a difficult decision to continue our plans. We had no idea at that moment that radio and television networks all over the country had announced the attack on Pine Forge students in Boston. When we approached homes in the Pottstown area, hearts had been touched and people gave generously to our cause. In about five hours, less than one hundred students had raised over twelve hundred dollars. Our advanced planning of the solicitation day had alerted the community to our coming, but the Boston incident had alerted them to the merit of our cause.

The next morning I accompanied Auldwin Humphrey to Boston. Our primary aim was to be with the students, to lend moral support, and to check firsthand on their well-being.

Principal Humphrey was deeply concerned about legal ramifications of the situation and was apprehensive that this might occupy precious time in drawn-out hearings, thus diverting him from important work at the academy. In my role as director of public relations I needed to know the complete story so that I could intelligently answer questions. What happened, as reported from students and teachers, was this:

On leaving the Bunker Hill monument in the Charleston section of Boston, they noticed a car circle a few times. At first there were just two men in the car, but later there were five.

With the approach of the public bus for which the group was waiting, the men sprang from the car and began beating our tour group with golf clubs and hockey sticks. The first reaction of the Pine Forge boys was to protect the young ladies. The five male students and teacher muscled all of their strength to gather the eight girls and push them into the bus to shield them from injury. Even so, only six girls safely boarded the bus without a single blow; two ran for shelter down the street.

After Pine Forge men had protected the young ladies, they struggled to get onto the bus themselves. Only after they were safely inside did someone come to their aid. That aid was given by the bus driver, who merely closed the door against the assailants. He then took the group to the police station. Two blocks down the street he picked up the girls who had run to escape the attackers. When the group was together again, blood trickling down their faces and splotching their clothes, their first words were, “Let’s have prayer.” There on the crowded bus, spectators totally silent and unresponsive, the group joined hands for an audible prayer.

They prayed for health, strength, and protection. They gave thanks that though they were blood spattered and in pain, they were all conscious and aware of God’s mercies. They gave thanks that even though no one save the bus driver really came to their aid, God had protected them from an altercation that could have been far worse.

In the police station they intelligently and without hysteria gave their story. The injured were taken to the hospital, and the others were questioned further. During this interlude the students spotted the car and one of the assailants lurking around the police station. The officers immediately arrested three of the men.

When the Pine Forge youth were presented with photographs of these men, they were able to easily identify them.

Boston police were especially impressed that these youngsters who had undergone a tremendous episode were calm, unrevengeful, and noticeably articulate about what had transpired. Those who could make positive identifications did so. Those who had the slightest doubts refused in any way to make a judgment that might incriminate the innocent.

When the tour group had finally gathered at the hospital, they were bombarded with questions from news reporters, who were shocked that amid all the blood and physical pain there was not even a hint of anger. This maturity, alertness, and spiritual composure seemed literally to captivate them.

Mayor Kevin White also met with our young people at the hospital and expressed his embarrassment and apology on behalf of the city. He, too, admired the students and their handling of the affair, for he was aware that such a delicate situation—if allowed to get out of hand—could have resulted in a major riot. Complete strangers came forward to offer their help—some to care for dry cleaning and laundry, others to provide hotel accommodations, dinners at big restaurants, elaborate city tours, and the like. The students were advised to stay on to witness at the legal hearings, which were expedited to accommodate them. One dignitary of Boston after another expressed either by telephone, letter, or in person their apologies for

Boston and their admiration to the group for the way they responded. At the end of the first grand jury session the district attorney, his assistants, and several jurors remarked on the excellent cooperation of the students. The kinds of clues that give credence to a testimony were evident in the remarks of each who testified. One juror was so impressed with the articulation of the students that she asked one to tell her more about Pine Forge Academy.

How was it different, what was its philosophy? Fred Walters answered without hesitation, “Our school is different because we believe that true education ‘is the harmonious development of the physical, the mental, and the spiritual powers.’ ”

Reporters, jurors, Boston officials, and even the mayor himself, asked for an invitation to visit Pine Forge Academy. Massachusetts secretary of education, Paul Parks, remarked that he had just submitted to the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare a paper that proves public education in its design is not geared for the masses and especially not for those who are poor, black, or minority.

He seemed to be especially interested in a school like Pine Forge as a model of what effective education can be. The National Broadcasting Company has expressed an interest in a television special on Pine Forge and its philosophy of “true education.” As an immediate result of the Boston incident, Mayor White has consented to be a guest at a fund-raising dinner for our academy. Roy Dunfrey, owner of several exclusive hotels, has donated the ballroom of the Philadelphia Sheraton for the grand event. Singer Clifton Davis, a Pine Forge alumnus, has offered to provide entertainment along with The Brothers, a popular Adventist singing group from Washington, D.C. Donations have begun to come to the school from people in many parts of the nation.

We at Pine Forge know that the Boston incident was more than a racial attack. In a mysterious way God was letting the world get a glimpse of some results of true education. Financially, the door was opened for the academy to receive more of God’s blessings. Our enrollment will undoubtedly increase as the world evaluates and the parents and friends of our students reevaluate what Pine Forge has to offer.

God is working a miracle at Pine Forge so that we may do His will even more and exemplify even to a greater extent the meaning and substance of character education. We sometimes talk pessimistically about the future of our young people. But we at Pine Forge are more convinced than ever that God’s work is in good hands with youth who stood as these did at Bunker Hill.


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