One of the highlights of the first summer for our willing group of workers -- for any mission or church, actually -- was a visit from the Bishop of Mississippi. An affable man, good looking (looks never hurt a leader, you know), compassionate, loving, Bishop Allin in his myriad of annual visits throughout the state could recognize any of us in whatever different church where he met us. One one occasion he brought a special visitor whom he introduced to the state churches and missions. We would meet and hear an extraodinary man from South Africa. Yes, it was Bishop Tutu. At that time few people knew that this man's name in the near future would be on everyone's lips and most would come to recognize his face from thousands of photos that would be published.
The Bishop's office is located at St. Andrew's Cathedral in downtown Jackson. On these yearly visits he confirms new members who have taken the required course on church practices and the Prayer Book. Because of Bishop Tutu's visit, the mission communicants decided to rent the local Catholic priest's party boat (so called because it had double decks and was usually rented to groups for parties) and have dinner on the deck and informal chat while anchored in the middle of the new reservoir in Madison County.
The party boat was a success. Everyone had their time to chat with Bishop Tutu, enjoy his humor, his sincerity, and if a few snapshots were taken, I don't remember. At the time we didn't think of him as anyone but another visitor. The church often brought colorful men of cloth to visit churches around the city, if not the state. However, in those days of the 1960's we knew so little of this imposing little man that few, if any, failed to record this memorable meeting. We knew only what Bishop Allin had told us. He was an emerging figure of the Church. We laughed, chatted, toasted a glass of wine with a man who later became a national figure, a headline maker, a mover and a shaker for his country and his beliefs.
Only later did we realize what a gift we had been given with that visit on that sunny weekend in Jackson, MS some forty years ago.
Archbishop Tutu(Photo taken from Internet files)