When I was a teenager, growing up in Orlando, Florida, a young black priest named Nelson Pinder came to our high school youth group and shared his experience of “the Plunge.” This was a program of the Urban Training Cener in Chicago where participants were given a dime and put on the streets of Chicago to learn, firsthand, what homelessness was like.
Hearing Fr. Pinder speak and later reading a book called “Light the Dark Streets” documenting Paul Moore and Kim Myer’s experiences as young, inner city priests in Newark fired my imagination and introduced me to the (then) radical new idea that the gospel had something to do with social justice and that the Church might actually speak prophetically and stand alongside the “last and the least” like Jesus himself had done.
Later, after many “dangers, toils, and snares” I decided that I could either stand outside and criticize the Church for not being braver and more faithful, or I could get involved, become an “insider” and try to make a difference. This was part (though not all) of my “call” and led me to seminary, ordination, and a life of service to the Episcopal Church.
I have run across Fr. Pinder a number of times during the years. (In fact, he was instrumental in steering me toward my first curacy upon graduation from seminary — and he never tires of telling that story…how he “got me my first job.” Indeed he did!)
I read today in the Orlando Sentinel that a new play has been written entitled “Pinder’s Kids” which dramatizes and documents Nelson’s mentoring of young black students in 1960’s Orlando in the ways of non-violent resistence, walking in the footsteps of Dr. King. I could not be happier and more proud of him!
Pinder’s Kids. Although he may not know it…I’m one of them!