Harper Lee’s new book is out. It only took half a century to get it.

There’s been a lot of controversy leading up to its release, particularly as it relates to how Atticus Finch is portrayed. I believe Gregory Peck’s portrayal of this character is one of the best performances in movie history. He makes Atticus come to life as the ideal father and lawyer who fights injustice during an extremely ugly period of our nation’s history. I’d like to remember him that way.

Apparently, that’s about to change. The new book, “Go Set a Watchman” has already set pre-release sales records and stimulated conversation about Atticus becoming a “racist” and attending KKK meetings (Ok, no more spoilers).

The setting of this story is two decades after “To Kill a Mockingbird” and has Scout returning to her hometown. She learns some difficult lessons along the way, and it looks like we will too.

The timing of this release couldn’t be more appropriate. Our nation is dealing with the recent racially charged events of the massacre at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, and the subsequent removal of the Confederate flag at the South Carolina statehouse.

This is an eagerly expected work and guaranteed to generate a great deal of discussion. I would like to think this is going to be a good thing. However, many people don’t want their sentimental version of Atticus (as provided by Peck) to be tainted. I’ve seen numerous reactions on Facebook and Twitter, and recall one person stating “Harper Lee you ruined my life!”

I’m not sure how I’ll react upon reading the entire story. Very few books have affected our culture like “To Kill a Mockingbird” and I envision Lee’s second work to have a similar impact.

Mercer University professor Brett Younger wrote an article recently called “When the Klan came to our Revival.” He talks about how a young black student came to church with a white friend and was asked to leave. The next night the Klan showed up. Younger remembers a sign with the church name with the phrase “Everyone is welcome” underneath it. Younger says, “but everyone knew what that meant.”

This has been a great week for UHBC. We’ve hosted VBS and with that children of a variety of ages and ethnic backgrounds. It’s been encouraging to see that and not be concerned about someone in our church telling one of these precious children “we don’t want you here.”

I hope that our church is serious about “everyone is welcome” when it comes to people attending our church services. We need a (Baptist) church like that in the Ozarks. Let’s continue the practice of hospitality and being the presence of Christ in Springfield.

On that note, let me say thank you to ALL of you who helped with VBS this week. You should be tired, but it’s a good tired! You can check out some photos of the week on our church’s Facebook page.

Finally, my family and I will be on vacation this week. I appreciate Drs. Bob Perry and Mike Haynespreaching in my absence these next Sundays. This Wednesday, Dr. Brad Arnold will be handling the program. We are blessed to have such talented individuals part of our church family. I know you will be supportive and attentive to their efforts