“I have a dream that one day little black boys and girls will be holding hands with little white boys and girls.” — Martin Luther King Jr.
At 6 feet 4 inches tall, Daryl Little towers over the congregation. He scans the faces of the parishioners silent with anticipation and smiles — his dream realized.
“People looked at me, heard about my plans and thought I was crazy,” the pastor’s bass voice boomed through the sanctuary. “Look at us. Nothing is impossible when we come together as one.”
Applause and “amens” filled The Nation’s Worship Centre in southeast Decatur where blacks and whites sang, prayed and worshipped side by side.
“If Dr. King was able to come down here and visit this church and saw Troy, a white man, singing on stage, saw me preaching and saw our sound crew, a black and a white person, working together, I think he would fall on his knees and cry because of all he went through for this,” Little said.
Little does not speak boastfully. Nor does he brag. He speaks with a knowledge of history.
He has seen the photographs and heard the speeches of the black Baptist preacher, who spearheaded the nation’s civil rights crusade. He remembers the news from 1968 reporting the assassination of King, who became known as a symbol of justice and morality for many Americans.
On Monday, Little will join the rest of the country in recognizing Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a day when President Barack Obama, the first black leader of the United States, will take the oath of office for his second term.
To Decatur Youth Services Director Bruce Jones, Little epitomizes King’s dreams.
“Dr. King preached about the importance of unity and of different ethnic groups of kids playing together. As much as we have become integrated, many churches are still segregated on Sundays,” Jones said. “For a black preacher in Decatur, Ala., to have an integrated church where white and black members worship together is truly a dream fulfilled.”
The comments humbled the 48-year-old Little, who diverted all credit to God. He did not choose The Nation’s Worship Centre as the name of the church on Indian Hills Road S.E. and Alabama 67. God gave it to him.
“The name came into my heart one night. It was placed there by God,” Little said. “I knew from the beginning our church would be multicultural. That’s why we named it The Nation’s Worship Centre. Everyone is welcome here.”
“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” — Martin Luther King Jr.
Naive, Little is not.
He grew up in the small town of Leighton, Ala., at the end of the Civil Rights Movement, and listened to the stories of his grandmother, who worked for white families.
“I was not raised to be hateful or racist. My mother had white friends. My grandmother was friends with the people she worked for,” Little said. “I also know, in our society, most people have an opportunity to act on racism. If you meet one person of an opposite race who is mean, you may judge a whole race by that one person.”
Racism and prejudice exist, but people can choose how to act.
Educating children about morality, equality, acceptance and love rests with parents and the church, Little said.
“The country will never be perfect. Unless parents teach their children how to be loving and giving and are involved with a church where the pastor preaches about being loving and giving, racism will remain,” he said.
For Little, the lessons of love came from his mother, Dorothy Little, “a woman of integrity,” and his wife and co-pastor Annette Little, a spirit-filled Christian.
As a child, Little watched his mother read the Bible daily.
“I was 7 years old, checking out life. I see this big red Bible my mother bought from a traveling salesman. I didn’t know what that book was really all about, but I knew she was getting something out of it,” he said.
As a man returning from service in the U.S. Army, Little learned about true faith in God from his wife.
“Her character and lifestyle showed me what it was like to be a serious Christian. I wanted the peace and love that she had,” Little said.
Despite the positive influences, Little admitted to feelings of prejudice when his wife suggested attending Decatur Christian Fellowship in 1990.
“There were so many needs in the African-American community. I wanted to stay in that community. I didn’t want to go Decatur Christian Fellowship, and that decision was based on race,” Little said. “I grew and all those feelings passed away because of the people and their love for God.”
At first, Little kept his distance, but the congregation forced themselves into his life.
“The older white ladies of the church took on my wife and I like we were their own children,” Little said. “And pastor John White, another man living out Dr. King’s dream, showed me acceptance and love.”
White would eventually hire Little, who owns Little’s Janitorial Services, as youth pastor. His first day on the job, four teenagers attended the group: three white youths and one black youth — Little’s son.
“His race didn’t matter at all,” White said. “We are an interracial church with a good population of blacks and Hispanics. Daryl was the right man for the job and that is the only thing that mattered.”
After 13 years at Decatur Christian Fellowship and two years with Calvary Assembly of God, on Easter Sunday 2005, Little opened the doors of The Nation’s Worship Centre. The church’s motto: Loving God. Loving People. Loving You.
“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’ ” — Martin Luther King Jr.
Little’s spiritual vision for the church includes building up leaders, restoring backsliding Christians and winning the lost.
To accomplish the last goal, the church focuses on outreach to underprivileged neighborhoods.
“Sometimes we target specific groups with our food and clothing drives,” Little said. “We want to focus on the Hispanic community because, as we all know, in this political climate the least of them feel threatened. We want them to feel love.”
Along with the Hispanic community, the church formed an outreach ministry targeting biracial families.
“Our goal was to target biracial families because many of them say they do not fit well in a lot of churches. We said, ‘You fit here and we want you here,’ ” said Little, whose daughter-in-law is white and grandchildren are biracial.
For Little, the more cultures, races and heritages working together creates a stronger, more united church.
“We are living out the dream here. Our children’s pastor is white and our youth pastors are interracial,” Little said. “When everyone brings their different talents, gifts and backgrounds to the table, we all grow and learn.”
“I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.” — Martin Luther King Jr.
Sitting behind his desk, Little bowed his head. One second passed. He exhaled and glanced at photographs of his family.
“What lessons do I want to pass down to my children and grandchildren? That love never fails,” Little said. “To do the thing that is loving is to do the thing that is right. You will reap what you sow. Love is the answer.”
Catherine Godbey can be reached at 256-340-2441 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
|High School Sports||@DecaturPreps|