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Nov. 28, 2010

This day ended, as above spectacularly.

It began in an equally spectacular way.

John Cleghorn casts a shadow in Charlotte. Will people listen? Will they follow?

Some know the Rev. Cleghorn because he once wrote speeches for banker Hugh McColl. Today, more know him as the pastor, in a town with hundreds of vacant buildings, who made something happen to allow his flock to host a shelter for homeless women.

Caldwell Memorial Presbyterian stepped up this fall to answer a community problem. With volunteers from across the city, they spruced up an unused part of the church campus and are now hosting an overflow shelter for homeless women served by the Salvation Army's Center of Hope.

This morning, the Observer Viewpoint page carried an edited version of his Nov. 14 sermon in which he addressed another community problem: the "scab" pulled off by the recession that has been covering up race and class divisions over public schools, and how budgets should be balanced during this recession.

Rather than replace the scab, Cleghorn seems to be leading in another direction.

He writes that "we have only just begun a very difficult process," that "a full and frank dialogue" is needed, that "we should not pretend there is not anger and frustration," that the "anger is justified," that we "must ask whether we have really made the kind of commitment to all of our children to provide an education that prepares them for the world they will inherit, much less, more fundamentally, to earn a decent living or get a job at all."

From the pulpit, the pastor's message was one of hope, built on the foundation of Isaiah. Perhaps that hope got muted by the editing necessary to fit the piece into the the Viewpoint space. The Observer column was perhaps more didactic:

"We must reach even deeper inside ourselves and our community to do the hard work that gets past emotions and delivers us all to a place of reconciliation across race and class and neighborhood, where we can stop shouting and start working together."

John Cleghorn casts a shadow in Charlotte. Will people listen? Will they follow?

Steve Johnston