His name is David Evans, and you deserve to know a little about him.
From the L.A. Times piece by Kurt Streeter:
You’ve almost certainly never heard of him. He has no pulpit. He isn’t a religious leader or an activist. He’s simply a parishioner living his faith in two worlds — an example of the quiet, steady courage that can lead to profound understanding.
One Sunday you’ll find Evans in Westwood, sitting in well-tended pews at a predominantly white parish, listening to a concise sermon, blending in.
The next Sunday he’ll be in South L.A., seated in worn pews, listening to a minister uncoil a sermon peppered with the call and response from an African American congregation. Blending in is difficult: Evans is the only white guy in the room.
Westwood Presbyterian is where this Kansas-raised son of a preacher rediscovered his faith in the early 1970s, after becoming a self-described “angry atheist” during the era he wrote for the TV show “The Monkees.”
But Evans will tell you that South L.A.’s Westminster Presbyterian — which opened 110 years ago and bills itself as the oldest black Presbyterian church west of the Mississippi — gives him a different kind of spiritual nourishment.
“Westminster is more of a heart church, more of a community,” says Evans, who lives in Sherman Oaks with his wife, Sally. “Yes, it’s a bit weary…. Yes, there are fewer and fewer in the pews. But the way I have been accepted and loved, the things I have learned about people I didn’t know very well before, about black people, I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything.”
Evans first came to the South L.A. church in the aftermath of the 1992 Rodney King riots. His Westwood parish was one of several white churches that had reached out to black congregations.
Looking back, Evans admits a certain amount of trepidation about venturing into South L.A.
“With all that was going on after the riots, honestly, I wondered if I might be killed,” he says. “But then I reminded myself that this is what Jesus would want: a white guy, privileged in our society because of the color of my skin, reaching out to his brothers and sisters, no matter how uncomfortable I may be.”
The relationship between Westminster and Westwood started strongly. There was shared worship. There were meetings and retreats. But no matter how well-intentioned, the religious diversity drive foundered.
“When it comes to [such] efforts … there’s a real difficulty in sustaining progress,” says Dr. Kevin Dougherty, an associate sociology professor at Baylor University who studies segregation and faith. (The figures cited earlier came from a paper he co-wrote.) “Often the difficulty isn’t only getting people together, it is getting them together and then having them stay.”
Soon the only two whites regularly in the pews at Westminster were Evans and his wife, who came when she could. For years, until age began slowing him, Evans would go to Westwood in the morning, taking in its punctual sermons. Then he’d drive to Westminster, where the preachers went on as long as the spirit moved them — intoning on issues like how to survive in a world where jobs and financial security and peaceful streets cannot be counted on.
The experience changed his life. He says he grew more aware of the chasm of mistrust between wealthy and poor, black and brown and white. He came to feel that whites, having created the racial division in this country, needed to be the first to reach out.
There’s more at the Times, you should really give it a read.