Response to Charleston, SC 6-18-15

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All the words I normally have, even the prayers of lament, are not coming to me. The cry How long, Oh Lord? doesn’t even seem strong enough. I don’t know where to find enough hope to rescue my prayers to pray them.

When will enough be enough? When will the outrage at lives obliterated move us to action?

Our annual conference prayers and re-building efforts with sister churches in Baltimore are still reverberating in Sandtown-Winchester. Yet this morning I find out that 9 of our Wesleyan brothers and sisters are dead in Charleston. Shot to death gathered at church in study and prayer, and we thought those things were buried in our history books or only happened in other countries like when Archbishop Oscar Romero was gunned down leading communion.

How many of us, God, all across the world are praying the prayer that you taught us? That your kingdom come! That your will be done on earth as it is in heaven!

Your children at Mother Emmanuel AME, in the words of NPR’s Scott Simon, “… made a stranger welcome. They put him in their prayers & gave him their love. They are grace.” They followed your kingdom call, and all hell broke loose.

God, for the powers of evil that plague Dylann; for the systemic powers of evil in racism and gun violence that we perpetrate, Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.

Lord, make a way. Make a way for healing and hope; make a way for breaking hearts of stone; make a way for seeing and understanding realities different from our own; make a way for us to deal with our fear and anger without ripping lives apart.

Where there is soul-wrenching grief in Charleston, bring comfort. Where there is oblivion in our nation, bring anger and dis-ease and CHANGE. Open our eyes to our corporate need for confession—to own white privilege and pray for the forgiveness of our systemic trespasses in our collective misuse of power. Open our minds, and break our 2nd Amendment obsession to see the destruction wreaking havoc on our families and communities.

Lord, I don’t know how, but make the words of scripture come true—that
“Christ is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. 15He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, 16and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross.” Eph 2:14-16a

Metropolitan Call to Action

If we want to end inequality in our city, we can. All the church has to do is be the church. All we have to do is care for one another—sharing job connections, housing notices, taking the kids, building a reliable safety net of spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical support. What makes our work something that reproduces or ends inequality, though, is whether we do it only for our isolated groups of like-individuals or whether we include all our neighbors no matter what.

So, church, what’ll it be? I vote for putting shoe leather to our kingdom prayer.

Join us on July 1 at 7pm in Wesley’s library to talk about how to be more intentional in our multi-ethnic, multi-site parish, and how to witness and show a different way of living. Please contact Pastor Kate Payton with any questions or reflections.