Don’t underestimate what this video displays.
The early days of what we would now term ‘Christian Television’ was more than a sermon or series of songs. In the midst of a healing and miracle movement (1940’s/50’s), some preachers used this new form of communication as a way of sparking debate around debt, justice, work ethics and educational standards. But none tackled the controversial issue of race equality as intensely as Asa Alonso Allen and his worship leader, Gene Martin.
The presence of a black worship leader to guide the congregation and television audience in song was not missed in a national atmosphere where the civil rights issue was very much in sight. At a time when Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat in a segregated bus, and protests erupted around school integration, this preacher refused to practice segregation in his meetings. This was a bold statement, particularly during his tour of the South.
I have a soft spot for this controversial preacher, and it was a pleasure writing a chapter about him in my upcoming book; particularly around this issue of facing social injustice. He was a man who displayed his frailty as well as his strength. And whilst for many years mainstream church turned their back upon his ministry post his death, Allen and Martin remind us very clearly of the need to voice words of justice beyond the confines of comfort.