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Bishop Jim Lowe: He ran from divine calling but became a guiding light

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Bishop Jim Lowe (Frank Couch, special to The Birmingham Times)

By Solomon Crenshaw Jr.

For The Birmingham Times

Bishop Jim Lowe (Frank Couch, special to The Birmingham Times)
Bishop Jim Lowe (Frank Couch, special to The Birmingham Times)

A young Jim Lowe thought he might follow in his father’s business.

Lowe, the son of J.L. Lowe, a musician and jazz historian, considered a life as a musician and corporate executive. He would do corporate work during the day, he thought, and spend his evenings doing something in music, possibly jazz.

But Lowe had to be about his Heavenly Father’s business and followed in the footsteps of a grandfather who was a bishop over several churches in Birmingham AL, Tupelo MS, Montgomery AL, St. Louis MO and other cities in Tennessee and Arkansas. That grandfather had four brothers who were also in the ministry.

Lowe, senior pastor of Guiding Light Church, counts himself with the prophet Jeremiah and others who initially ran from their Divine calling.

“I accepted after a long fight,” recalled Lowe, a 64-year-old father of three with one grandchild and another due in November. “I was 26. I know I was called at 6 but my parents and others discouraged me.”

They discouraged him from following that path, he said, because they understood the cross that he would bear.

“Persecution is a part of the calling,” he said. “It was done to the prophets and the Son. They will do it to all called to stand for truth.”

Before accepting his calling, Lowe played keyboard in various bands including one of his own from 1966 to 1995. According to the Guiding Light website, the Parker High and cum laude Birmingham-Southern College grad submitted to the will of God in 1978.

Lowe became an associate minister of the 16th Street Baptist Church and later was minister of music at the Macedonia 13th Avenue Baptist Church. The first of those two churches was the site of a monumental event in Lowe’s life. He is one of the survivors of the church bombing on Sept. 15, 1963, that killed four little girls and injured 22.

Lowe, 11 at the time, was one of the injured, sustaining cuts from flying debris that struck his back and arms. Survivors received no counseling, he said.

“You’d just go home and suck it up,” Lowe recalled. “But it did not cause me to have any animosity toward white people, and I knew it had to be a white person who did it.”

The pastor, who’s been married to his wife Pat for 38 years, said the bombing has always been a part of his life. He said he grieved for many years and was saddened by the awareness of the presence of such evil in the world.

Did it alter the course of his life? Maybe.

“Perhaps it caused me to consider the only solution to such hatred was a relationship with God,” he said.
“I remember struggling seriously with the thoughts of ministry and the meaning of life in the seventh grade a year later.

“I never considered the real impact,” Lowe continued. “It might have been what jolted me to seek God more. After all it was something of a near death experience.”

More than 50 years later, Lowe is outspoken about some politicians, particularly those in and from the black community.

“Many (politicians) exploit the masses and that is troubling to me,” he said. “There’s been a healing, yes, but many of our people, once they achieve, forget the community they came from.”

That, Lowe said, is tragic. Some have continued the enslavement of black citizens economically, he said.

“It’s a mental slavery where now we have blacks that get in a position of authority who are like the blacks of slavery time who worked in the kitchen,” the pastor said. “They are responding to whoever pulls their strings. The masses of blacks who are in the community – the community is the field now – and they’ve moved into the big house.

“But they don’t look out for the people that are out there still in the field, still in the community.”