Friday, January 19, 2018

The President--Who's Responsible?

photo by art flick/ flickr

The good news is that President Trump passed his physical with flying colors. The bad news is that we can now hold him responsible for his words and actions. I cannot think of a single difficult event or decision that our President has taken responsibility for.  On the flip side, every positive sign since he has been in office he has taken credit for. All the negatives went to someone else.

The minions around President Trump rush to his defense of unaccountability.  He really did not say the vulgar words some say he used. He really has never lied. He really does not watch TV endlessly. He only occasionally plays golf. It is not clear at all that President Obama was born in the United States. He says he is not a racist—why would anybody say this? The firing of the FBI Director was all Mr. Comey’s doings. He never had any dealings with Russia and never sat in on meetings that involved them. Why would anybody want to see his tax returns? And when things get dull he really would not attack President Obama or Hillary Clinton or anyone else who has disagreed with him. The mayor of London. The Puerto Rican people who cannot handle their own crises. Or the FBI or the Justice Department and even the CIA. Or, of course the newspaper-TV world. The fake news seems to be everywhere. 

No, he is not mentally deranged. He is accountable for his actions which are cruel and selfish and hurtful to our great country. In one year he has altered the way so many for us feel about the country we love. And the way so many countries look at us today is embarrassing. 

photo by Paul Hanson / flickr
Weeks ago I saw the incredible film, Darkest Hour about Winston Churchill’s leadership as Prime Minister in England.  It was a gut-wrenching time for Mr. Churchill to stand up to his own people and many of his colleagues. He stood firm against the attempts to negotiate a peace with Nazi Germany.  He knew they could not be trusted. Everyone in England seemed to be against him. But the Prime Minister adamantly refused to follow public opinion. We now know he made the right decision. In England’s darkest hours they had a Prime Minister whose courage not only saved his country but also made his nation stronger. No wonder history called those hard days England’s finest hour. Churchill’s leadership made the difference.

On the heels of the movie I read Chris Matthews’ book on Robert Kennedy. It is a fascinating read about the shaping of the character and leadership abilities of the President’s brother. Born in a rich and powerful family Robert Kennedy stood courageously for the underdog. The poor, the Latinos, the blacks—all those that had been left out of the country. When he died and the train carrying his body moved from town to town people lined the railroad tracks knowing they had lost an advocate who worked tirelessly to make their lives better. One wonders if our history would have been different had he lived and become our President. Strong leadership is essential. 

photo by Eric B. Walker / flickr
Alongside the Kennedy book I have also been reading the biography of Abraham Lincoln by David Herbert Donald. We honor Lincoln as one of our greatest Presidents. After his assassination, as the horse-drawn casket passed through the Washington streets one black woman held her grandson high and said,“Take a long long look, honey he died for you.” Citizens everywhere knew he cared. As we stand before the Lincoln Memorial in Washington it is hard to hold back the tears. We are a better people because this President dedicated himself to the principle that all men are created equal. His leadership changed the nation.

There is enough chaos in our time without President Trump creating more havoc. He is responsible for the ugly things he has said about nations and about individuals. He has no idea the power of his words. He is accountable, not only to his base—whoever they are—but to all the American people. He took and oath to “protect and defend “ all our citizenry. It includes people of color, different races, every economic status and all those who come from other countries. This is the United States—united—-not to be divided. And the Commander in Chief has a responsibility to continue the dream of the more perfect union that our forbears envisioned. 

President Harry Truman reminded us that the buck really stops at the President’s desk. This is not fake news—it is the heart of who we are as a people. It is high time we hold our President accountable for his actions or lack of.

photo by Wally Gobetz / flickr

--Roger Lovette /

Monday, January 15, 2018

Dr. King--A Meditation

photo by ellabella1 / flickr

Today is the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. Strange time to celebrate his birthday--with all the chaos swirling around us.  Dr. King, by this time I thought we would have moved further down the road you dreamed about: "to turn the mountain of despair into a stone of hope." And for a while after the election of Barack Obama I though maybe we had turned a corner. One of those good places where there is no turning back. I was wrong. For somehow his presidency unleashed a stream of venom and hatred that we thought was gone forever. 

Today's President has not helped the cause. In fact we are more divided than we have been in a long, long time. But I don't want to talk about Mr. Trump. We know him. We have all heard him ad nauseam. No. I want to talk about us and what we can do with the time we have. 

When you are 82 are find yourself attending too many funerals--you know painfully there is not as much ahead as there was behind. And that is a grief. But it is also a gift I guess. It means that I am more conscious than I've ever been too realize how precious the days I have left truly are. I'm trying to make the most of it--but like so many others I still fall of the wagon and fall off the wagon and fall off the wagon. But I still tear up when I hear "We shall overcome some day...deep in my heart I do believe..." because in my lifetime we have made incredible progress and somehow, despite it all I have this hope. 

I'm still preaching and I am enjoying it whether those that come do or not. But last Sunday on the eve of Dr. King's birthday--I remember something that happened to me in Birmingham while I was Pastor. Must of you know that I was Pastor of an inner-city church there. And after work I would drive a mile or so down the road to work out. It was good medicine. I would change clothes at the Y and run up and down the streets of downtown Birmingham. It took the kinks out most days. 

And one particular afternoon I had put behind me a lot of stuff I had dealt with that day. I needed to run, maybe away from it all. Anyway I pulled into a parking space near the Y took my Gym bag and started up the street. A black man came up to me. I thought, Oh, no. He looked like he might be homeless and I did not need another 'Help me"  So I shook my head, and said, "I don't have any money,"  "Mister", he said," I don't want any money--I jest want you to know I ain't crazy." This is not what I expected. But I told him, "No, you are not crazy but you are a child of God." He is face lit up like a Christmas tree. And he nodded, turned and walked away. All the way down the street I still remember what he said, over and over, "Child of God...Child of God...Child of God."

And on this special day I do want to remember all those out there that need a reminder that regardless of who they are and what they have done or failed to do--they really are children of God. 

And so Dr. King on this day, with all its problems: "deep in my heart I still believe..."

photo by Indraneel Biswas / flickr

"Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope." --Romas 15.13

--Roger Lovette /

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Dr. King and the Dreamers

photo by duncan c

One of the great moments in my memory of speech-making was when Dr. King stood in front of the Lincoln Memorial and told us: “I have a dream…” Those words are embedded in my heart and in the hearts of so many other people.

As I think about the Dreamers—a term that President Trump refuses to use—I think about Dr. King’s all-encompassing dream he gave us in August of 1963. We are in shaky ground in this country if we let these 800,000 young people be denied of their hopes for a better life. Yes, they are illegal. Yes, their parents brought them into this country as little children but most of them were born in this country.

And yet somewhere along the line from home or school or our history we kindled a hope into their hearts. The American dream. They could work hard, get an education and go on to college—like so many of us that were born in this country. Months ago I drove over to Greenville one night to hear some eight or ten of these dreamers open up their hearts and share their stories. Those I heard were outstanding students. They had won all sorts of academic awards for their hard work. Members of honor societies in high school. Some had already received scholarships at schools like Furman. One young lady had enrolled in cosmetology school only to be told toward the end of her studies she could not receive certification to work in our state. 

These 800,000 represent some of the finest young people in our country. It is hard for me to imagine that we would send them back to places they have never lived. They would take with them the broken dreams this country had snatched from their their hands. Some of their parents fled not only from poverty but also from fear for their lives. They wanted something better for their children than closed doors and fearful nights with no promise for a better world. Sounds like the rest of us.

President Trump has left these young people scared that they might lose all they have worked for. One day the President says he will protect the Dreamers, another day he states we could let them stay with strings attached. The Wall. More security along the borders. 2,000 miles of fencing to keep our neighbors out.

None of us want this country less secure. We all want to live in communities that are safe for all our citizenry. But these Dreamers have nothing to do with political matters. But they have much to do with the kind of country we want to be. How tragic it would be to close doors after all the opportunities our country’s provided these young people. To deny the Dreamers a chance for a great future would say much about the kind of people we truly are.

Last Spring my wife and I spent thirteen days in Ireland. One day we stopped in New Ross.
Replica of boat that bought Irish to America

From that village thousands of folk left everything they had ever known for the promise of a better life for them and their children. We saw a replica of the tiny ship that crammed over 150 people into their cargo holds. They left with tiny bundles of clothing. Most were poor.  Many could not even read or write. They left their homeland because they were starving and saw little hope in the county they were born in. They sacrificed everything for the hoped-for-American dream. A place where they could work and have hungry stomachs no more. A place where they would not have to bury their children because of disease and poverty. They risked it all because of the American dream. Many died along the way.

And when they arrived many of these immigrants found resentment and hatred. Yet they persisted and worked and determined to make the dream they had of America a reality for themselves and those they loved. We haver heard some of the stories of our Irish neighbors. They have gone on to enter a multitude of different professions and helped make this country the rich nation we are.

We’ve come as long way since that day in Washington when Dr. King gave us a great vision. As we celebrate  the great man’s birthday let us bring his dream up to date. Years from now almost a million folk that we opened the doors to will find their lives richer and far more meaningful because we gave them a chance. In doing so our nation will once again live up to the promise of those words embedded at the base of that statue so many first saw when they came into our land. 

We held out hospitality to “the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to be free”. And we  opened wide the golden door for so many. A nation that stands by it’s values will be stronger and better for the doing.

photo by J Kim / flickr

--Roger Lovette /

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Epiphany--What's That?

photo by Stelios Andreolas / flickr

We have taken down the Christmas decorations. We still find an ornament or two. Mary, Joseph and Jesus have been moved back to our glassed-in hutch. I’m still finding a few Christmas tree needles on the rug or in the corner. Reminders that even though Christmas is over and the kids have all left and the left overs are mostly gone—thank goodness…we still remember what Christmas was all about.

And then reality intrudes. Washington. North Korea. Iran. The Sugar Bowl. And my accountant sent us our tax forms. And the Visa card has come already. And all these things sort of push Christmas to the side.

And Epiphany comes. Epiphany? Since the 4th century the church has taken the time after Christmas to turn the page. As the days are dark and reality intrudes—the church told an old story.

From far away the Wise Men came. I used to think, like our bath-robe dramas they followed the Shepherds down the aisle to the manger. Not so. They came later. Looking for the Christ child. Following a star which promised to lead them to wherever he was. They knocked on King Herod’s door and asked directions. No idea, he said. But when the king shut the door—he ordered his soldiers to find this baby who the Wise Men said would be the king. Taking his place? So it was a terribly bloody time when all the boy-babies under two were killed. But Mary and Joseph somehow protected their child. And the Wise Men found him under the sign of a bright, bright star. 

And in a dark world—Epiphany says: Hey—it is dark. Herod is alive and well in so many places. But still there is this shining star which shines down on the whole world in a dark time. That light came to outsiders—Gentile kings. But it just kept shining. Over everything and everyone. Rich and poor. Strong and weak. Old and young. Republicans and Democrats. Liberals and fundamentalists. Immigrants—legal and illegal. Everybody. Even Alabama. John saw it and he wrote in his gospel. “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot put it out.” 

This is Epiphany. Despite the darkness—a very real darkness—there is also this incredible light. And the Gospels said: Yes, the darkness is strong and scary—but it cannot—ever put out the light. 

Sometimes like you I wonder. My buddy just lost his Mama January 1. What a way to start a new year. Down the street somebody’s kid has been arrested yet again for drugs. And more people than I can name keep saying: What is this country—this world coming to? I don’t want to brush any of the real pain even in this room aside—but since the 4th century the church has tried to tell each other and the world—above it all—there is this light. And nothing—plagues, mad kings, hunger and poverty, Hitler and Putin or whatever that man’s name is in North Korea—this darkness—which is powerful does not have the last word. 

And we must all decide if we are going to give ourselves over to the darkness—saying over and over: Ain’t it awful! Ain’t it awful! And it may be—but that is not the last word. Yes, you have lost your Pastor—and it’s scary because you do not know where this church will go. And you have to listen to these supply preachers. And wonder who will come here as Pastor. Of course money will sag a little. Of course some will stay home. But remember—you date back to 1789. And this church has seen a lot of darkness and much light in its day. And a hundred years ago some said: What are we going to do since our Pastor was called up to fight in the war.  Or—what’s gonna happen as all our boys march off to fight the Yankees. Or what will happen to us in this Depression? No jobs. Not much to eat. When will Junior come back from World War II. Gone from home for 4 years. JFK and Robert and then Martin Luther King all killed in one year. What is going to happen? This church has lived through all of it. And some of you sitting out there have lived through a lot personally.

The church said: It may seem a little crazy—but this is Epiphany. Not Pollyanna time. Not pack up your troubles in an old kit bag and smile, smile, smile! Nah. You’ll hear that from some of the TV preachers and some mega-churches. But Epiphany says the dark is very real. But that old star that led the Wise Men still hangs in the sky and can still lead us. 

It doesn’t matter what you bring here today—and for some of us that’s a lot. But over it all Epiphany says there is this star-light. And somehow with the help of God we will all make it.

Annie Dillard has written: “I cannot cause the light: the most I can do is try to put myself in the path of it’s beam.” Isn’t that why we set the table and light a candle and somebody brings the bread and someone fills the cup and here we are. Trying to put ourselves in the beam of this light.

Needing what we find only here around this table. Waiting. Waiting.

photo by carina / flickr

(I am Supply Preacher at the First Presbyterian Church, Pendleton, South Carolina. The church was established in 1789. This was what I preached on the first Sunday of Epiphany.)

--Roger Lovette /

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Matthew--Happy Birthday

He came roaring into our lives January 3, 1968. Fifty years ago. How could that be? Matthew fifty! And he has been a delight. He did so well in art in High School...thanks to Teacher Brenda--that the South Carolina Governor's School recommended he spend his last year in High School at the North Carolina School for the Arts. He flourished there. And they recommended that he go to the Art Institute in Chicago. The scariest thing we ever did was to move all his peculiar treasures into a shabby apartment in that huge city, turn around and head back to South Carolina and leave him standing there.

When he graduated he spent about six months or more at Habitat for Humanity in Americus, Georgia. My Associate Tom Hall had turned him on to that wonderful organization which helped build homes for those in need. He wrote us one day and said he he was leaving Americus, moving back to Chicago to live with a guy named Mark. It was the time when the AIDS crisis was rampant--and we were scared. And we didn't know who this Mark guy was. Well, that relationship must be pretty good because they have been together at least 28 years. I don't know a stronger or better partnership. Our daughter Leslie years ago said, "Gosh, I wish I could find someone like Mark."

After they had been together 25 years Pennsylvania decided gay folk could get married. And so one bright morning, standing by their fireplace in their home in Philadelphia--I married them. Tears streamed down all of our faces. What a
long journey they have made against many dangers, toils and snares. Yet--the best evidence I know that what the Supreme Court did in saying gay couples could get married is this couple.

He and his sister both love use fiercely--and we certainly feel that way about them.   Matthew is a fine photographer for Bed and Breakfasts around the county. His work has appeared in all sorts of magazines. Mark does the business side and Matthew handles the creative work. They have done quite well except we never know where they are. Their work takes them everywhere.

And so on his fiftieth birthday I look back on his journey and proudly give him a standing ovation. On my seventieth birthday they gave my wife and I a trip to Italy and went along with us! What fun. But we've also been with them in Barcelona and California and Chicago and New York.

Matthew we are so very proud of you. I know you are somewhere in California celebrating this day. But I wanted you to know, once again that one of the best things that has happened to our family was that cold, cold day when you came into our lives fifty years ago.

--Roger Lovette /

Sunday, December 31, 2017

If I Were a New Pastor--This is What I Would Need

photo by waterboard / flickr
(I preached this sermon at the Mount Zion Presbyterian Church, Sandy Springs, South Carolina December 31. They will welcome a new Pastor next Sunday.)

I had thought about using that wonderful text in II Kings. The prophet Elisha was walking down the road one day and some mean boys came out of the town and made fun of him. “Get out of here Baldy!” They said it more than once. Well, the prophet put a curse on them in the name of the Lord. And two bears come out of the woods and ate up the boys. So—you better be careful. No telling what might be out there in those woods. 

Seriously—next Sunday you will have a new Pastor. And today I would like to give you some hints from this side of the pulpit. 

A Human Being

So our text is found in John 1: 6. Early in the story—the writer says: “There was a man sent from God whose name was John .” So our first point is: There was a man…” Really what John  is saying is that First, there was a human being. We’ve already seen it in the Christmas story. The real actors in the drama are not angels—they are real folk like you and me. Who? Well, Elizabeth who finally found out she was pregnant. Zechariah her husband who had almost given up hope. There was little Mary, not even married and her intended: Joseph. And there were Shepherds and Wise Men and even a Herod. Real people.  Not just plaster saints we put in books on our coffee tables. 

So when Paul wrote to one of the messiest churches in the New Testament. What did he say? “We have the treasure in earthen vessels…”Paul  wanted that troubled, troubled church to know that God works, if he works at all , through earthen vessels…clay pots. 

And one of the great surprises when you call a new Pastor is to discover they all have defects—just like you. Sometimes church members just write their Pastors off because they discover they have clay feet. The Billy Graham-Joel Osteen-Charles Stanley they thought they were calling was nothing like that. And if you were to take the makeup off the Grahams and the Osteens and the Stanleys—you’d find the same thing. Earthen vessels.

So you have called a real live human being—just like yourself. The only way the light shines today is through somebody just like you. I have a slogan I hold on to a lot: “There’s not but one Jesus” and sometimes my wife will remind me…I’m not it. And she is right. So when your new Pastor arrives next week—don’t be surprised when you learn one day that you have called a human being. 

God Calls

Second hint. There was a human being sent from God. God calls all sorts of people. Sometimes the most unlikely ones.  Moses who had murdered a man…a sheep-herder—God called him. And Moses said: “Me…you want me?” Why I can’t even speak in public” and you know the rest of that story. We could tell a zillion stories just like that from the Bible. Did you know the first European convert was, guess what: a woman. Her name was Phoebe. Did you know that Jesus leaned on people like Mary and Martha even though he was supposed to only spend time with men. Paul often mentions people we never heard of like Claudia and Euodia. When we started struggling in the Baptist church about the role of women—people said: “Oh we can’t do that…not only will people be upset—but the Bible said men are in charge.“ And I always would say: Have you read Romans 16. 1? “I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon in the church at Cenchrea.” And sometimes they would say: “Well, you know how these modern translations are.”

In1840 someone named Lottie Moon was born. in Virginia  And as she grew older she thought she heard the call of God. Calling her to China as a missionary. And the officials in the Baptist church said: “Well, that’s nice but we don’t call women.” That didn’t stop her. She raised her own funds and headed for China. And she worked there until 1912 when she died. But when word first came back to headquarters that she was preaching and baptizing—they sent word that she couldn’t that. She was a woman and had not been approved. She wrote back: “When you send a man to do the preaching and the baptizing—I’ll stop. Well—they never sent anyone and she kept on preaching. 

So God calls—and his call is not particularly to the male population. Women preachers have taught me a lot. Sometimes they open the  Bible and take a text and see things I never thought of. They see the words through the eyes of women that God called. And they see it differently. 

One Sunday I visited a Disciples’ church and it was Christmas and they had communion. And the woman who was Minister came down front…took the wrapped bread for Communion and picked it up gently, cradled it like a baby and moved through the congregation saying: “The word became flesh…” What male would have even thought about that.

You’ve called a woman to be your Minister. I would just remind you that God can work through her just like he can work through some men. Listen. Support her…and remember God’s call is never selectively male. 

His Name Was John

Third hint: Thou shall not compare her to other preachers. “There was a man sent from God whose name was John.” John ? Wild. Needed a haircut. Dressed in strange clothes. Nothing like Moses. And nothing like Elijah. And nothing like Luke or Mark or any of the others. God called a man with a specific name. John. You’ve called Alison. And she will be different from any other minister. She will be Alison.

I’ve had more than one church where they tried to compare me with the last wonderful fireman. When  I moved back to Clemson five years ago—the preacher of the church I served for 13 years would look at me like: Hmm. Not sure.  He’d heard all these Lovette stories that got bigger and better after I had left. I told him. Let me tell you something: When some members that hated me come running up to me telling me how great I was  and how lousy you are—I won’t buy it. Now they think I am the best preacher they ever had—past tense. I told our preacher I would support him and never talk behind his back —and if I had anything to say about him—I’d tell him. Nobody else.  No comparisons, folks, it isn’t fair.

The first church I had they talked about Brother Glenn all the time. He was just wonderful. Why one summer he painted the whole outside of the church! Could I top that. Of course not. The first Sunday we were there—my 21 year old wife was sitting on the second row. And some woman in the back yelled: “Are you going to be President of the Women’s Missionary Union.” My wife, dumbstruck said: “I don’t think so.” The women muttered: “Well, the last one did!” No comparisons. It isn’t fair. They don’t want to hear how great the church was you came from…and you don’t want to hear how wonderful their last Pastor was.

Affirm! Affirm! Affirm!

Fourth hint: Affirm! Affirm! Affirm!  I have another saying. Preachers are like dogs—if you pat us on the head we go crazy. And you can break our spirits if you choose to. We all need affirmation. Reuel Howe tells the story about a church that called a Pastor. And as he preached people would look at one another. Not too good. Sometimes downright bad. And so the Session met and said we’ve got have to do something about our preacher.  So they called him in and told him that a lot of people were muttering. They didn’t like his preaching. Silence. And then he said: Well, I’ll just resign next Sunday. And you know what they said? 

“No, we don’t want you to resign. We want you to stay. We called you and it is our job to help make you the best preacher you can be. We will stand by you, pray for you and support you  in every way we can.” And we are told that when the history of that church was written the finest days were when this man had been their pastor.

You see we are in this business together: Pastor and people. And your Pastor can help meet your needs and be with you in those crisis times and times when you need a minister.

Dr. Larry McSwain tells the story about a Christian grade school class room where the kids were already studying. And the door opened and the Principal came in with a little boy. “Class,” she said, “this is a new student. His name in Timmy—I know you will welcome him.” And the class said, “Timmy welcome.” Timmy sat down and the whispering began. One little girl whispered to another. “He only has one arm. Look.” And the girl looked and told the boy behind her, This new kid just has one arm.” The news traveled fast in that classroom. The next day the teacher said, “Class—we’re going to do something a little different today. We’re going to build a church. So put your hands together like this.” And she showed them. “Now we say:  ‘Here’s the church, and here’s the steeple—open the door and there’s all the people’.”” The minute she said that her heart almost stopped. The teacher forgot that Timmy only had one arm. She didn’t know what to do. But little Suzie saved the day. She got out of her desk and went over to Timmy and said, “Timmy and I are going to put our hands together and we will build a church.” 

Join hands with Pastor Alison, warts and all, and guess what? You will build a church.

photo by Trina Alexander / flickr

--Roger Lovette /

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Judy Bridgers: I Will Remember Her Always

"I'll be loving you always--
not for just a day, not for just a year--
but always..."

Judy slipped away from us.… It is altogether appropriate for her to leave us at Christmastime. Judy cerebrated Christmas every day!  I don’t know anyone who loved life and parties and people and entertaining and laughter anymore than Judy Bridgers.

Judy was an unframed original. I’m trying to remember when I first met her. I was Pastor in Birmingham and she began to visit our church. Not being a Baptist I think from the first she was a little wary about “the Baptists."We had been through the Gay-acceptance fight and that wonderful church stood up to the challenge. Whew! Hard struggle. But the church came out on the right side. So when she heard about this little church that opened its doors to everyone she came to check us out. She must have liked what she saw because one Sunday she walked down the aisle and joined this Baptist church. Those were hard days. It was the time when the AIDS crisis was raging and we had a lot of funerals. People were scared that they might catch this disease.

Judy and her husband Bill, who was the founding Dean of the UAB School of Public Health, were both were champions for the people with AIDS—and all gay people.  A UAB doctor, Dr. Michael Saag got interested in the AIDS challenge and became one of the international spokespersons in helping to deal with the medical crisis. We would not be where we are in having saved so many lives if it had not been for this good doctor and the work that both these Bridgers did.*

So our journey of friendship began. The Church began to take Meals on Wheels to very sick Gay folk. And gay people heard about the church and they began to trickle in and join and become a vital part of that congregation. And Judy loved the effort and supported it—and told everybody about what were were trying to do—to just accept everybody—no restrictions. One Sunday Judy brought a visiting Episcopal minister to church with her. He looked around and said, “There’s no way this group of diverse people can stay together.” But we did. And they still do.  And Judy Bridgers in her quiet way—helped make that happen.

Judy was a cook extraordinaire.  Every Monday night for I don’t know how many years she had open house—I mean open. For dinner! And I’m not talking about pinto beans and cornbread. It would be a spread—and the house—which was beautiful anyway—always looked festive for those dinners. A whole bunch a gay guys were there every Monday night. Many would not have missed it for they knew when they walked into the door of that house in Birmingham they would find acceptance and love. Bill and Judy both made sure that would happen.

Judy knew many gay people and she was fiercely in their corner. And she became surrogate Mama and counselor and friend too so many. Some of those guys were turned away from their homes when the families found out they were gay. Some had a lot of problems—but never mind—Judy opened the door and her heart to them all.

She was one of the best cooks I have ever known. She often made me Pimento Cheese and I called it: “the Judy Bridgers Memorial Pimento Cheese.” On Monday nights she would spread out all that delicious food on her big dining room table ands we would have feast after feast.

She was from Selma and never let anyone forget it. Deeply, deeply Southern—she had all the good graces that Southerners can possess—and not many of our faults. Well, maybe some. 

After her husband, Bill died Judy continued to love and care for so many. She moved from her big house in Mountain Brook to a fine condo in downtown Birmingham. And when my wife and I moved away—Judy made sure when we came back that there would be a dinner in our honor and she would invite some of our favorite people.

I still remember the day Bill died I was there and she and I walked into his hospital room which was quiet and sad. Bill lay there and Judy said her goodbyes. They loved each other fiercely and that passing was hard, very hard.

How strange it seems that when I go back to Birmingham that Judy will not be there.  To Jana and family I simply say: You will miss her always. But how fortunate that she was your Mama. And though the days ahead will be hard indeed for Jana and all those of us that she loved—our lives are better, stronger and maybe more faith-full too, because of Judy Bridgers. 

"Into paradise may the angels lead
dear Judy, any her coming
may the martyrs take her up
into eternal rest,
and may the chorus of angels
lead her to that holy city,
and the place of perpetual light."
--from the Roman Catholic Prayer for there Dead

(These two photos I think express much of who Judy was. She loved her boys...and my, my there were many, so very many whose lives will be forever different because of Judy.)

*Bill and Judy Bridgers Endowed Scholarship:
The Bill and Judy Bridgers Endowed Scholarship was created to honor Dr. William (Bill) Bridgers and his wife Judy for their outstanding service and commitment to public health.  Bill was the driving force behind establishing the UAB School of Public Health and served as its founding dean.  He devoted his career to improving the lives of all Alabamians and his work on the front lines of health care helped to combat emerging infectious diseases, to make workplaces safer, and to protect the health of the most vulnerable in our society.  Judy has demonstrated her strong support of public health issues through her active and tireless volunteer efforts for a variety of health causes, especially the fight against AIDS.

--Roger Lovette/