Jeff Bass, Executive Director for the Emmanuel Gospel Center, was stirred by the recent events in Charleston and listened in on a national call of Christian leaders considering how the church can and should respond to the recent shootings. He writes for the UniteBoston Blog this week:
On May 18, 1992, at Morningstar Baptist Church in Boston, gang violence disrupted a funeral service for a young man who had been gunned down by a drive-by shooting. The stabbing and shooting in the church was a clear wake-up call. “Everyone recognized a line had been crossed. You couldn’t sit idly by anymore.” (Rev. Jeffrey Brown, quoted in the Boston Globe). The Morningstar incident was a turning point in Boston’s history.
“It catalyzed a clergy that by its own admission had failed to grasp the dimensions of youth violence. The Boston TenPoint Coalition, an alliance of ministers and lay leaders, was born. Preachers went into the neighborhood to minister to troubled adolescents. It gave youth workers and community activists renewed urgency in their fight to keep teenagers away from drugs and violence. And it built common cause between ministers and the police after years of mutual distrust, giving rise to the acclaimed community policing strategy that led to a dramatic, unforeseen decline in violence known as the Boston Miracle.” -As reported by the Boston Globe (May 18, 2012)
On June 17, 2015, violence disrupted a Bible study at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, SC, where nine people, including the senior pastor, were shot and killed by a white man with ties to white supremacist groups. In the last week, while the church and the nation grapple with how to respond, at least three predominately black churches in the South have been destroyed by arson. As we mourn with our brothers and sisters in Charleston, please pray that the shooting at Emanuel AME and related events will stir and motivate the nation as the violence at Morningstar Baptist stirred and motivated Boston in the early 90s.
The status quo is not acceptable. Our nation has deep, systemic issues that require sincere repentance, real change, and gracious healing. Like Boston in the 90s, we need renewed urgency, a greater sense of common cause, and new strategies. Like Boston, the church can and should play a key role. Pray that we will rise up for such a time as this.
We do not choose our moments. Moments choose us. They place before us the question of whether or not we will rise to their occasion. The tragic killings of the Charleston 9 presents yet another moment in the history of our nation where we’ve been chosen. The question is whether or not we will rise to it. -Bishop Claude Alexander, The Park Church, Charlotte
*Note: Originally published here; reprinted with permission