Monday, January 22, 2018
As I interacted with others, watched the room, observed the slide show, listened to the music, hugged family members, and prayed silently prior to the huge predominantly African-American funeral service for a young woman in her 30s who was murdered in her apartment in Cincinnati last week, my feelings were ineffable. Fragments of thoughts:
- This is nothing new for the African-American community. A pastor and police chaplain I spoke with told me he’d lost four brothers to street violence. Similar scenarios have played out in this large sanctuary numerous times.
- Grief flowed freely. No Anglo-Saxon ridged stiff upper lips here. Weeping, wailing, crying, embracing accepted as the norm. Much healthier than the alternative. Women church ushers circulated at the ready with cardboard hand fans and boxes of tissues. A stately gentleman stood at the foot of the casket.
- Everyone was dressed up, most in black and red.
- The overseer of a prominent church, along with his kind, gentle, dreadlocked “armor bearer,” greeted me, welcomed me, and befriended me, as did an Imam, and the pastor of “Come Just As You Are Reach Out Ministries,” which decided to sell off it’s property and take church to the people sans brick and mortar. (I love that idea.)
- I learned that in the church, the “armor bearer” carries the “armor” for the leader, i.e., his Bible and stays by his side to assist with whatever is needed.
- As I hugged the murdered woman’s mother, she said, “This gun violence has got to stop.”
- As I hugged the murdered woman’s grandmother (the chair of the deacons at the church I pastor) she reiterated, “God knows what he is doing.”
I felt an overwhelming need to learn from these people – to learn how I have contributed to racism, how I have benefited from a racialized culture, how to stand in solidarity with the oppressed, how to love enemies, how to forgive the unforgiveable, how to lament, how to heal, how to be community in authentic spirituality. What can I do to contribute to racial reconciliation and bring justice?