ST. PETERSBURG – The historic McCabe United Methodist Church is celebrating Black History Month this year with special worship services that unite congregations across racial, geographic and denomination boundaries and uplifts civil rights activists in our community.
Two special worship services will be held at 11 a.m. Feb. 10 and 17 at McCabe United Methodist Church, located at 2800 26th Ave. S.
Feb. 10, McCabe will worship jointly (at McCabe) with Christ United Methodist Church, a 124-year-old, predominantly white church in downtown St. Pete. The guest preacher will be Presiding Elder Joyce Moore of the St. Petersburg district of the African Methodist Episcopal Church.
Also during this service, McCabe will present its second annual James B. Sanderlin Black History Award. The award is named after Judge James B. Sanderlin, who was a member of McCabe and a pioneer in civil rights in St. Petersburg.
This year’s recipient is Dr. Arnett Smith, Jr., who joined the Civil Rights Movement as a student while attending Florida A&M University in 1962. He was among students organized to march and sit-in under the leadership of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Rev. C.K. Steele of Tallahassee.
Smith, Jr. went on to become an educator in Williston, Levy and Pinellas Counties, serving as part of the first group of teachers selected to integrate the teaching force in Pinellas County Schools. Smith retired from the field of education as an equal opportunity compliance officer with the U.S. Department of Education.
On Feb. 17, McCabe welcomes guest preacher Dr. Ernest “Rip” Patton, esteemed Freedom Rider and civil rights activist, whose mugshot hangs in civil rights museums across the nation and has appeared on Oprah Winfrey’s talk show. While a student in Nashville, Patton joined the newly formed Nashville branch of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in 1960.
He participated in sit-ins, protests, boycotts and Freedom Rides. He and other students from Nashville SNCC made notable advancements with their direction action campaign, as they successfully integrated downtown Nashville lunch counters by the end of 1960. Due to the arrests of many of the students, including Patton, many were expelled from academic studies at Tennessee State.
McCabe considers it a blessing to give back to civil rights pioneers who sacrificed their safety, well-being, personal goals, academic studies, livelihood and so much more so that we could have what we have today.
“We truly stand on the shoulders of these civil rights pioneers,” said Rev. Jana Hall-Perkins, McCabe’s current and first ever female senior pastor. “They serve as a reminder of our past, and as an indicator that young people have power, agency and voice. Together our entire community – young, old, black, white, male, female, gender non-conforming – we all are capable of advocating for equity and equality when we work together toward the common goal of justice.”
About James B. Sanderlin
Judge James B. Sanderlin was an attorney who, during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, used litigation to fight for equality and against discrimination in Pinellas County. During this time, Sanderlin was one of only five African-American attorneys who practiced in racially divided St. Petersburg.
He devoted his career to unifying blacks and whites in his community to move toward social and legal equality. Among his many achievements, Sanderlin was instrumental in the judicial oversight of the integration of Pinellas County’s police force. He died in 1990. He was a member of McCabe United Methodist Church where his younger brother still worships.