IN an interview, Samuel G. Freedman explained his motivation in writing "Upon This Rock" in dialectical terms. The first part, he says, was "a need to bear witness" to social problems he thinks journalists have ignored for sensational stories. The second motive: "After staring into that abyss ... the need to find something redemptive, to I guess somehow uplift my own soul."
The author and his subject grew close during Mr. Freedman's two years of interviews and observation at the church. At one point Freedman asked the Rev. Johnny Ray Youngblood to disclose the secret question in black people's hearts about whites.
"I'll tell you what I think is the secret question at the core of white racism," Freedman told the minister: `Why don't you do anything for yourselves?' "
Mr. Youngblood's answer was: "Why can't we trust you?"
Freedman now acknowledges, "I never thought in terms of trust. I hope the book will be a countervailing force to that."