After the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in 1968, economic, social, and racial divisions threatened to tear Memphis apart. A diverse group of community and faith leaders came together and MIFA was created to confront the issues of poverty, hunger, and social division through service.
2020 brought another crisis to Memphis. In a series of blogs, some of our current-day faith leaders have taken time to express their visions and hopes on healing and coming out of the pandemic better and stronger as a community.
I am privileged to pastor a purple church.
In an age where we have reduced our country to such simple categories as “red states” and “blue states,” and when we all-too-frequently confine our neighbors to equally simple descriptors that allow us to put them in their places – “He voted for her…She voted for him…therefore…” – I find some of our best hope for healing and growth is in our community’s purple places: those places where red and blue blend together and make purple.
As we consider how we will move beyond the still unfinished health pandemic – not to mention the pandemics of racism, gun violence, and poverty that also plague our community – we simply cannot disregard the power of what purple places in our area provide.
MIFA is a shining reflection of what an outwardly focused, community-minded institution can afford. Feeding, healing, sheltering, and – quite literally – saving neighbors in and beyond our city. These are hallmarks of our more than half a century of service in this area. The differences that all-too-easily divide people are pale in comparison to the rich and beautiful opportunities to see where we can come together for the common good. This is what we find at the heart of the purple places we have throughout our community.
I am part of a tradition that leans into faith that compels us to promote what Saint Paul calls “a still more excellent way.” He wrote about this in response to conflicts among people in the ancient city of Corinth. They were on the brink of coming undone because of infighting and divisions among them.
Now as much as ever, we need purple places in our community; organizations and institutions, houses of worship and non-profits that draw together people of diverse perspectives and ideological positions. We can be the ones to lead the way in promoting the common good and cultivating compassion as we move forward together.
This community we call home is made up of a beautiful and sometimes complicated mix of all kinds of people of all kinds of perspectives.
While partisanship and incivility have infiltrated almost every part of our society, I refuse to concede that and surrender to saying that must just be the way it is.
Now as much as ever, we need the people of our city’s purple places to hold firm in our conviction that our community is made stronger when we come together to work for the common good.
Rev. Dr. Stephen Cook
Senior Pastor at Second Baptist Church
Stephen graduated from Wake Forest University with a Bachelor of Arts in Religion, Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond with a Master of Divinity, Brite Divinity School at Texas Christian University with a Master of Theology in Pastoral Theology and Counseling, and Columbia Theological Seminary with a Doctor of Ministry. He has served churches in North Carolina, Georgia, and Virginia. Stephen’s interests include road trips with his family, cheering for the hometown Grizzlies, and running enough miles per day to stay moderately healthy.