Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Montgomery, Alabama: Dexter Ave. Baptist Church

You come to the Dexter Ave. Baptist Church to learn about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. You leave thinking about Wanda Battles ... the tour guide.

Wanda leads most of the tours of the church, and she's something of a force of nature herself - full of spirit and energy. Visitors start by joining her in a chorus of "This Little Light of Mine" in the church basement. Then they head for the pastor's office, where Dr. King led this little church a couple of blocks from the state capitol from 1955 to 1960. Some of the theology books are still on the shelves there. It is in that spot that Dr. King worked on the Montgomery bus boycott in 1955-56.

After seeing a podium that King used at the end of the Selma-Montgomery march in 1965 and a mural of famous moments in black history, the tourists then go upstairs to the church itself. It's a modest little place, but obviously some good sermons were given there once upon a time. Wanda tells the stories with enthusiasm, interacting nicely with the visitors.

The tour ends with everyone holding hands, singing "We Shall Overcome." And in some ways, we really did overcome. In others, we're still working on it.

The church's neighborhood has changed over the years, and that has led to the church's membership aging to the point where it's mostly seniors. Hopefully that can change, as it would be a shame if this wasn't a working parish in the future.

It takes a little less than an hour, and there is an admission charge. A few souvenirs are sold in the church basement, such as t-shirts. Sunday mornings are reserved for services, although visitors are welcome to participate.

Thank you, Wanda. 

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