taking the words of Jesus seriously

“It’s good people like him that makes us realise what’s possible and how we can go on.”  Van Badham’s said to me an hour ago as we discussed Martin Luther King’s close friend, speech writer and strategist, Dr. Vincent Harding.

I’ve just learnt that ‘Uncle Vincent’, as he insisted I call him, has died at 82.

We had been talking of World Vision Australia bringing him to Down Under.

We had talked of me visiting with him again when I’m next speaking in the U.S. in July.

But now, he’s gone.

Instead he is hearing those words he talked about God saying to us, “Well done good and faithful servant.”

Clayborne Carson speaks for all of us when he says “greatly saddened by the passing of Vincent Harding.”

On the phone to Van I naturally started to talk of Uncle Vincent as we discussed the incredible success of the #LoveMakesAWay nonviolent movement here in Australia. It felt natural to transition from speaking of Christian leaders participating in sit-ins at both the Australian Prime Minister and the Opposition Leader’s offices, to speaking of everything Uncle Vincent taught me, and how that’s shaped our trainings and the movement. Uncle Vincent thought it was natural too. Uncle Vincent said the fight for Immigration Reform (or Refugee Rights as we call it in Australia) is a natural continuation of the Freedom Movement. “Dr. King would be right there with you if he was still with us.” Uncle Vincent would say.

Uncle Vincent taught me a song that has since become an anthem for a new generation as I shared it with the End Poverty Movement here in Australia. In fact, as Christian leaders, including the past denominational leader of the Uniting Church of Australia, were carried out by police, they were greeted by Christians singing the songs that Uncle Vincent taught me.

Yes, Uncle Vincent our minds are still stayed on freedom. Because as you taught me “Jesus means freedom.”

But now, our good brother is gone to join that great cloud of witnesses, our ancestors.

So I leave you with the exact words Uncle Vincent said to a group of us as we joined him across the road from 16th St. Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. In the shadow of this spiritual sanctuary, a sanctuary that was bombed in an act of white supremacist terrorism claiming the lives of four precious children while they were in Sunday school, Uncle Vincent said these words,

“We must remember those who went before us to remind us that we are connected. Part of that connection lays a great obligation on us. And part of that connection, also offers us tremendous power, and possibility for us.”

That connection, that obligation, that power and that possibility we carry into the #LoveMakesAWay movement Uncle Vincent. Thank you for your kindness to me.

_______    ______   ______

To hear a generation of young Australian activists interview Uncle Vincent with Joanna Shank for the Iconocast Podcast, click here: http://www.jesusradicals.com/the-iconocast-vincent-harding-episode-46/

About The Author


Australian pastor and social change educator, Jarrod McKenna, has been described by Rev. Jim Lawson, as “an expert in nonviolent social change.” Jarrod is the Founding Director of CommonGrace.org.au, a co-initiator of the #LoveMakesAWay movement for refugee rights and is a co-founder of the global GazaCeasefirePilgrimage.com movement. Jarrod pastors with Steeple Church in Melbourne and Table in the Trees in Perth, and is the co-founder of the InVerse Podcast and Collective with Dr Drew Hart. He is living on Wadjuk Noongar land, found on most maps as Perth, Australia, with the love of his life Kathleen and their boys.

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