That is not the first description you think of when you mention Andrew Young.
There is civil rights icon. Congressman. Mayor. Ambassador.
But if you ask him, all of that is rooted in his ministry.
“I was a preacher first,” Young said. “When I became a congressman, I saw Congress as my congregation. When I was the mayor, I had a church of 2 million people. The model that I use in all of my work is a pastoral model.”
On Sunday, he’ll bring that model to the pulpit of Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains, the church home of Jimmy Carter. He and the former president will co-teach Sunday school class.
For nearly 40 years, Carter has taken the helm at the little Plains church to teach Sunday school and continues to do so at least twice a month. On June 9, Carter returned after hip surgery to teach in front of more than 400 people.
Young, who was Carter’s ambassador to the United Nations from 1977 until 1979, said that he had been planning to make the 160-mile trip to Plains to see his old friend.
Then some friends wondered “if I would be interested in teaching his Sunday school class with him,” Young said.
Carter and Young, who met in the 1960s, will teach from the 16th chapter of Proverbs: “The plans of the mind belong to mortals, but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord.”
Tony Lowden, the new pastor of Maranatha, said Young’s presence Sunday will be an added blessing.
“This is an awesome opportunity to have two people who have lived through everything that has taken place in Georgia — from segregation, to civil rights, to Jim Crow — to come together to talk about how the church should be and how the church should speak about against injustice,” Lowden said. “They have just what the country needs, because history is repeating itself.”
Young is no stranger to the pulpit.
In 1955, the then 23-year-old Young accepted a pastorate at Bethany Congregational Church in Thomasville, which is a few counties south of Plains.
He stayed there until 1957, when he moved to New York City to accept a job with the Youth Division of the National Council of Churches, before joining Martin Luther King Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1960.
“Paul didn’t have a church. Peter didn’t have a church,” Young said. “The movement was a roving gospel. That is the way I thought of it.”
Young said he has not prepared what he will say on Sunday and probably won’t.
“When I was in Thomasville, my deacons told me, ‘We know you been to school and all, but we don’t believe in paper,’” said Young, who had just graduated from Howard University. “Let it come from your heart.”