On New Year's Day, a gathering at Tabernacle Baptist Church celebrated a New Year's event of 137 years ago.
On that day in 1863, the Emancipation Proclamation issued by President Lincoln the previous September went into effect, freeing the nation's slaves.
Organized by the Augusta Lincoln League, Saturday's program honored the past while offering inspiration for the future. In attendance were area pastors and a few lawmakers,
Keynote speaker Riggins R. Earl Jr., professor of ethics and theology at Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta, said he had a bone to pick with black churches.
"Most churches don't care about the young people," he said as he charged those in attendance to do something about the problems facing young people. "Find the budget of a church and how much is spent a year on young people, and that will tell you how much concern the church has."
Though he commended an older generation for its strength and perseverance in fighting for freedoms, Dr. Earl challenged it to pass on this inner determination.
"How do we who took so little and made so much give a sense of course, a sense of triumph over adversity?" he asked. "How do we transmit that to our young people? We are losing too many young black men. We are losing too many young sisters."
With Psalm 121 -- which begins, "I will lift up mine eyes to the hills" -- as his text, Dr. Earl told the gathering it was possible for them to save young people when three signs were obvious in their own lives. First, they must have an unequivocable resolution.
"This resolution is born out of the conviction that God will help me," he said.
Second, they must have something greater than themselves by which to measure their vision.
"You should gauge yourself by something you didn't create," Dr. Earl said. And the gauge should not be a possession.
Third, they should have a focus of vision.
"When they see you, they should see what you believe," he said. "When we've looked in God's face so long, young people should look in our eyes and see the beauty of God."
Dr. Earl also challenged the churches to establish endowments to provide money for higher education for black students.