“My model for almost every job I’ve had has been the model of a pastor servicing a congregation.” – Ambassador Andrew Young. –
One of Uncle Robin’s best friends is Andrew Young. Young is a world leader, former Georgia congressman and United Nations ambassador.
Young is one of the most humble, grounded, and confident men in our country. At 90 years old, he looks and works as if he was 65. Perhaps his youthful appearance is assisted by his belief that every stage of his adult life has been a form of ministry.
“I have viewed everything I’ve done as a pastorate… I really thought of Congress as my 500-member church.”
Likewise, he recalled making “pastoral calls” and praying with ambassadors representing some of the 150 countries that were then U.N. members.
Born into, raised in and ordained by the Congregational Church now known as the United Church of Christ (not to be confused with the Church of Christ), he has been a member of Atlanta’s First Congregational Church, a predominantly Black house of worship, since 1961. He continues to preach there on the third Sunday of each month.
Young spoke to Religion News Service about voting rights then and now, religious aspects of the 1960’s movements, and his memories of working with Martin Luther King Jr.
Q. You originally had plans to pursue dental school instead of seminary. What made you change your mind and do you ever regret the route you ended up taking?
A. My father chose dentistry. I never chose dentistry. Even as a 12-year-old, though I might have been working in a dental laboratory that my father wanted me to learn the business, I knew I didn’t want to do anything that confined me to an office. I’ve always been too full of energy and too rambunctious to stay in one place.
Q. Even though you ended up doing ministry of different sorts, you also didn’t stay in one pulpit as some people pursuing ministry do.
A. We likened the ministry in the 1960’s to the ministry of Paul and the apostles. Martin had one church. Most of us were ordained. But we pastored communities, cities, and we saw ourselves as pastors to the nation and to the world.
There are a lot of photos in the new coffee table book about you. Are there any that relate to your religious life, your ministry, that mean the most to you?
Well, actually the one that shows me getting beat up in St. Augustine. That was probably the biggest test of my faith because I ended up leading about 50 people, mostly women and children, into a group of a couple hundred Klansmen who had been deputized by the sheriff to beat us up. I left them on one side of the street and I crossed over, trying to reason with the Klan. I was doing pretty good until somebody came up behind me and hit me with something, and then I didn’t remember anything.
But, that was before the Congress voted to pass the ’64 Civil Rights Act. And I got up and I went down to the next corner and tried to talk to the Klan on that corner. And fortunately there, when they swung at me, I ducked. And a great big policeman, biggest policeman I’ve ever seen he was about six-six, six-seven he walked up and said, ‘Let these people alone. You’re going to kill somebody.’ And he moved the Klan out of the way, and we were able to march.
That was one of the times that nonviolence was really on trial.
You are continuing to preach at First Congregational in Atlanta about every month often at services featuring jazz music. It doesn’t sound like you’re anywhere near just putting your feet up at age 90.
No. There’s a song, old spiritual, that folks used to sing: “I keep so busy serving my Jesus, I ain’t got time to die.”
“I just feel blessed. I have lived a blessed life. You can’t earn it, but I’ve tried to be faithful.”
Uncle Robin and Young are currently making appearances at universities and demonstrating how blacks and whites can work together to make this country stronger. Sometimes the message is well received. Sometimes the message is met with vicious hatred. Either way, the two keep expressing nonviolent means to solving problems.
We should be grateful for one of Georgia’s favorite sons; Andrew Young.