By Steven Norris

     When I arrived in Griffin about six years ago, I set about getting to know my congregation. After numerous lunches, dinners, and shared coffees, I started asking about other clergy within our community that I needed to know. I heard one name repeated more than any other: “You need to know Dr. Cleopatrick Lacy. He is the patriarch of the Griffin clergy.”

     Expecting to find a man at least nine or ten feet tall, I was surprised to meet the slight, soft-spoken, humble man who welcomed me with genuine compassion, gentleness, and hospitality. I quickly recognized that what he lacked in physical stature he more than made up for in the gigantic nature of his faith, character, and leadership.

     Dr. Lacy has taught me more about the ministry of presence than any seminary class I attended. Sure, there is power in being present in moments of illness (at the hospital) or in moments of celebration (such as the birth of a baby). We expect pastors to show up for such events. However, he has taught me about the ministry of presence in the City Council meeting, the graduation ceremony, the backyard barbecue, or the aftermath of the local community tragedy. He has taught me about incarnational ministry as he showed up to services at First Baptist and as he has welcomed me at Mt. Zion.

     Dr. Lacy arrived in Griffin in 1977. He will complete his tenure as the Senior Pastor of Mt. Zion Baptist Church later this summer. As I reflect on his ministry and friendship, I can’t help but think of a story that Otis Moss, Jr. told about the late Howard Thurman.

When Thurman was a small boy, he saw an elder — a man who must have been in his eighties — who was planting pecan trees. Young Thurman raised a question, Sir, you will not live long enough to taste the fruit from these trees.The old man paused and said, Son, all my life Ive been eating from trees I did not plant. Its my job to plant for somebody else.’”

     Moss would go to tell his son, Otis Moss III, Just plant. There will be trees that you will never see grow, that someone else will eat from. And its their responsibility to plant for somebody else. It is true that we dont have all that we should have; weve not reached the goals that we are supposed to reach; but we have started the race, and now youve got the baton, son. Pass it on.”

     Our race here in Griffin is certainly not over. Dr. Lacy, you have run your leg with integrity. You have run it faithfully. You have set an example for us all to follow. You have been nourished by the fruit of trees planted by those who came before you. It is up to us — those who are now eating from the trees that you planted in this community — to carry it on. It is up to us to keep striving to make Jesus’ vision of Gods kingdom a reality in Griffin, GA. It is up to us to keep planting for the next generation who will come after us.