Christmas Magic and Mystery

By Kim Winslow

My sister has a filter on her camera made to prevent glare and shadows from overcoming the photograph, and yet the unusual lights made their presence known. They rose up from the words and surrounded Lewis Jeter, an African-American man, who spoke in this rustic 1850s church tucked in the hardwood forest of Union County. There is no electricity or heat, just candlelight and fresh greenery to brighten the hand-planed surfaces of the wooden walls, benches, and altar.

Lewis Jeter spoke about the history of the song Amazing Grace and its significance to both the white and black Christian Communities. John Newton, once a slave trader, wrote the song in 1772 to go with a New Year’s sermon. Everyone in the old church then sang the song accompanied by a local bluegrass group.

It was not lost on me or my sister that a white man wearing a cutoff blue jean jacket with a confederate flag emblem sat in the audience listening to the words; the unusual lights behind his photograph as well.

In a county with a devastatingly bad racial history, there was for a time and in this place, light and grace.

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