THE GOOD FIGHT In 1957, the same year that Ernie Lee Magaha was first sworn in as clerk, Dr. Nathaniel Smith was installed as the pastor of Antioch Missionary Baptist Church. Five days after Magaha stepped down from his post, Dr. Smith saw his son-in-law, Dr. Tyler Hardeman, installed as the senior pastor at his church.
Antioch has a rich history. It was organized in 1886 to serve the black community on the west side of Pensacola. Over the years, the church has parented several local churches, including Greater Little Rock Baptist Church and Mars Hill Baptist Church.
The pastor of Antioch has an awesome responsibility not only in the Baptist fellowship but also in the community. The installation of its new leader is a momentous occasion.
Sitting at the service, I listened to the Antioch congregation and other ministers praise, honor and challenge both pastors. Their words had meaning not only for those in attendance, but also for the rest of the community.
Lonnie Wesley, pastor of Greater Little Rock Baptist Church, delivered the installation message.
“Being a pastor is about fighting,” Wesley said. “Yes, there’s a love aspect, a caring aspect and, yes, patience, kindness and nurturing are all part of it. But you have to fight.”
Citing Paul’s letter to Timothy about fighting the good fight, he said, “You have to fight to do what God told you to do. You have to fight for what is right. You have to fight for safe neighborhoods and good schools.”
He told the crowd, “You also have to know who to fight. We too often go after the wrong one. It’s not always the ones who make the most noise that need to be fought.”
Pastor Wesley is right. It’s those in the shadows, whose motives are less obvious, that need to be fought and exposed. That’s the challenge for Mayor Hayward, Sheriff David Morgan, county commissioners and all of us.
After 14 years of fighting, our paper has done its best to fight the good fight. We’ve risked ad revenue and health to tell the story as best we can, pushing for a better quality of life for the entire community.
In 2013, we will be fighting with Dr. Hardeman, Pastor Wesley and their fellow ministers to end the cycle of hopelessness that has a large portion of this community in its grip. It’s time to deal with the poverty, violence, education, health, discrimination and lack of jobs.
We hope you will join us.