By Riley Manning
TUPELO – In honor of Mission Mississippi’s 20th anniversary, a six-foot cross decked in blue lights made its way through downtown Tupelo on Tuesday afternoon.
Carried by students from Tupelo Christian Preparatory School representing the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, the cross will be passed from county to county over the course of 82 days.
TCPS baseball coach Will Lowrey said the event was a perfect way for his players to connect with FCA members across the state.
“It’s an awesome event to network. I mean, think of how many hands have touched that cross,” Lowrey said. “At the same time, they are learning about history of these race problems, which some of them, especially 13- and 14-year-olds, might not know.”
Tillman Calvert, who has co-chaired the Lee County branch of Mission Mississippi since 2008 and became a board member on the state level in 2011, said today’s kids have trouble relating to the prejudices of older generations.
“I’m a product of the ’50s. When I was their age, I would have had to drink from a separate water fountain,” Calvert said. “But racism is an acquired characteristic, and now these kids just see other people.”
Mark Boren, director of the FCA in north Mississippi, agreed about the changing views of the youth.
“This generation is radical,” he said. “They are radical about anything they set their mind to.”
On Oct. 27, the cross will touch down at its home in Jackson at a statewide rally to be held at Veterans Memorial Stadium.
Tuesday night, Mission Mississippi held a special service in the chapel of Tupelo’s First United Methodist Church.
“The history in Mississippi holds lots of racial injustice,” Ed Holiday told the group. “But the shed blood of Jesus is transforming, and is the only way to get beyond what people have done.”
The trick to turning racism to “gracism,” Holiday said, is building relationships. Every third Thursday, Mission Mississippi meets at 7 a.m. at various host churches for diverse discussions that hope to broaden people’s outlooks on racial diversity.
“Sometimes those relationships are uncomfortable,” Calvert said. “But we are reconciled to our past as brothers and sisters in Christ.”