To many, James Phillips Noble is a hero, and for good reason, as he was an active participant in history. On Sunday, Sept. 15, 1963, Noble, then pastor of Anniston First Presbyterian Church, attempted to integrate the old Carnegie Public Library alongside pastors N.Q. Reynolds and William "Bobby" McClain. Noble got in, because he was white. McClain and Reynolds, who were black, were beaten back by members of the Ku Klux Klan. It would be the next day before the library was integrated, this time by McClain and G.E. Smitherman. Reynolds was forced to stay home, recovering from stab wounds.
“It was a very frustrating and dangerous time,” the 92-year-old retired Noble said from his home in Decatur, Ga. “But when I was in the midst of all that, I didn’t realize just how significant it all was. It changed society, but more than that it changed me. It was one of the most important times in my life.”
Noble revisits the civil rights movement, as well as other, more personal experiences, in a collection of poems and collected passages of inspiration written by a variety of authors, philosophers and evangelists.
The collection, titled “Words and Images that Seep into the Soul,” is taken from more than 50 years’ worth of poems Noble wrote, many of which were printed in church bulletins. The dates corresponding with the poems give insight into what was going on in Noble’s life at the time of its writing. His style is plain, powerful and conversational. It’s easy to hear the voice of a pastor flowing from each sentence.
“This is poetry for regular people,” Noble said. “It’s easy to read and to understand. I don’t pay much attention to the technicality of my poems. I just sorta write it down as it comes to me.”
Noble began seriously writing poetry in 1968 when his youngest son, Scott, contracted leukemia. Scott battled the disease for more than a year before dying on July 10. During the struggle there was a lot of waiting and hoping for a miracle.
From that loss, Noble would write what is perhaps his most poignant and well-received poem, “We Are Not in Charge.”
“I just wrote out of my sorrow, anger and frustration,” he said. “It was a way of getting those feelings out. And I never really stopped … just writing whenever the feeling and the need hit me.”
“Words and Images” is divided into numerous chapters, including Life, Faith, God’s Will, Mystery and Change. These poems and “reflections,” as Noble calls them, are not meant to be read in one sitting, but rather are meant to be savored and pondered over time. They are meant to serve as inspiration in a world that often lacks just that.
“There’s so much superficial stuff in religion and the Christian church,” he said. “My hope was to share something that would be provocative in a way that people could get past the superficial and into a deeper Christian experience.”
“Words and Images that Seep into the Soul” is available at Amazon.com and through the publisher, Wipf and Stock Publishing at wipfandstock.com
Contact Brett Buckner at firstname.lastname@example.org