winter-spring 2013 / 33
rowing up in the late ’60s and
early ’70s, I believed that every
child had new textbooks
and school supplies to help
them learn. I believed that
children everywhere were safe playing
outside. I believed that people regarded
one another as God regards each one of us
as precious, and worthy of respect.
Almost five years later, I know that
what I believed to be true was actually
wrong in many cases. I have, for the
last 21 years, been a pastor in what many
people erroneously consider a dangerous
neighborhood and others politely call a “changed
neighborhood.” I see how the injustice of 50 years ago
has been visited upon the children and children’s children.
Youngsters come through our doors actually hungry in this
land of plenty, and teenagers stalk the streets with vicarious
anger. Many adults seem caught in systems beyond their
control that still reek of the sins of the past.
In a church that chooses radical hospitality as its
particular mission, I see how much work there is left to be
done to see one another through God’s eyes. The struggles
of diversity are still real and poignant in our day. But, I also
see how far we’ve come.
As we gather at the Welcome Table—rich and
poor, black and white, broken and wounded,
eager and open—I have hope for what is and
what is to come. We gather together, many and
different as we are, as the family of God. On a
practical level, we also gather around physical
tables, as often as we can, to eat together. It is
harder to distrust or demean someone when
you are sharing good food with them. I think
that may be why we hear so many stories of
Jesus at the table.
In looking back over my life, I think I learned
many skills needed for my particular journey
at Birmingham-Southern. I learned to have a
healthy skepticism of what I had always believed to be true.
Professors Franke, Lester, Gossett and Wells pushed me
often. “That’s good, but not good enough, Sally. Think!
You’ve describe the problem well, now what are you going
to do about it?” I learned passion and tenacity and the
endless ways that we as humans can learn and change.
Important tools for this journey of hospitality I am on, and
I am grateful.
*Allocca is the pastor of East Lake First United Methodist
Church and founder and executive director of P.E.E.R., Inc.
Rev. Sarah “Sally” McCleskey Allocca ’87
P.E.E.R., Inc.’s East Lake Community Kitchen expands access to fresh, nutritious foods.