NOTE: On June 21, 2015, this will be what the congregants of First Baptist Church Lauderdale see on the back of their church bulletin.
We sit days removed from a Wednesday night Bible study. In a posting on the Emanuel A.M.E. Church's website, it says, "Is something missing from your life? Are you doing all you can to have a closer relationship with God? If you have a desire to learn more about God, then join us on Wednesdays at 6:00 p.m. in the lower level of the church. We look forward to seeing you." After issuing this inclusive, empowering invitation, a young man named Dylann Roof decided to receive the church's hospitality last Wednesday. This particular date happened to be the 193rd anniversary of Denmark Vesey's thwarted slave revolt, who was one of the founding members of this church. So this past Wednesday night, young Mr. Roof put in action a plan in germination for six months, looking past the obvious Christian hospitality while fermenting and executing racial hatred by killing nine innocent people, including the pastor.
Why are churches shaped around the spiritual development of Black people consistently burned and besieged? It may be because a person who is theologically, psychologically and spiritually free is dangerous to the status quo of what is, has been, and will be. Politicians, businessmen and women, and even white supremacists understand what we sometimes forget or take for granted—the church is an empowerment zone of life transformation. In that knowledge, those who deal with Black life in our land understand that to affect and reach our community, you must deal with the church. And so, with premeditated intent, we find ourselves in mourning. Nine people of the Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, South Carolina are now being spoken of in the past tense, having left the Church Militant and gone to the Church Triumphant.
What should be our response to this heinous act? I suggest that the history of this church tells us how. The Emanuel A.M.E. Church is the oldest one of its kind south of Baltimore. It was founded by worshipers operating in the crucible of self-determination after being denied equality in worship, and burned to the ground for its connection with a thwarted slave revolt. As stated in the Washington Post article, 'For Charleston's Emanuel A.M.E Church, shooting is another painful chapter in rich history', it says, "For years, its meetings were conducted in secret to evade laws that banned all-black services. It was jolted by an earthquake in 1886. Civil rights luminaries spoke from its pulpit and led marches from its steps. For nearly 200 years it had been the site of struggle, resistance and change." Don't get it? We must continue to live, continue to act, continue to transform. This is our assignment, and the One who gave it to us reminds us in the last words of Matthew's Gospel, "...and surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (NIV)