In 1952 Dr. Martin Luther King observed that “The most segregated hour in Christian America is Eleven O’Clock on Sunday Morning.” That observation is what inspired this story.
Set in New Jordan, a small town in Virginia in the 1960s, the script chronicles the racial turmoil from the perspectives of the community’s two churches and their ministers, one Black, the other White. These two men— burdened by the past, by tradition, by historic forces beyond their apparent control— prime the community for an inevitable collision.
In a nod to impartiality, the story is narrated by a life-long “non-Christian”— Sam Rosen, New Jordan’s one and only undertaker.
When lightning topples the steeple of the Black church during a storm, the question arises, will the White congregants respond in terms of Christian love, or will they show their usual indifference and even animosity? But while the pastors are frozen by prejudice, the women of the two churches literally join hands to help the Black congregation rebuild.
Does this mean that there is hope for the future? Unfortunately, no. The newly rebuilt steeple of the Black church— which has always been a few feet shorter than the steeple of the White church— is now a few feet taller. An accident? Perhaps. But not one that the White preacher can tolerate.
In addition to the irony of a “love-thy-neighbor” religion, Sundays at Eleven also examines the changes that were occurring in the country and the world at that time—the emergence of the voices of women, increasing social contact between the races, and even interracial romance.
We’re also reminded that the heated racial conflict of that time is still very much with us. And although the observation of Doctor King about “the most segregated hour in Christian America,” was made more than a half century ago, it remains as true today as when it was said.