Friday, June 19, 2015

The AME Church is My Church Home

I grew up in an AME church.  I still return to that same church on the occasional Easter or Mother's Day to worship with my in-laws and visit with my Pastor and his wife and old friends. To this day, our Pastor's wife is the epitome of "Church First Lady" to me and our church is the model of church home that I'm still looking for for our own family. I spent many evenings in choir rehearsal, usher meetings, YPD meetings, and waiting for my dad while he attended Trustee meetings.  When other teens were at the movies and parties, I was at revival and church conference. I ate a lot of fried chicken dinners and saran-wrapped yellow cake on Sunday afternoons. I spent a week each summer at Vacation Bible School with my friends. I met my husband in that church.  That little church, is my church home.

Unfortunately, church shootings and attacks in places of worship isn't a new thing.  Neither is a White man killing Black people out of hatred and evil, regardless of the inevitable claims of mental illness and some sad-sack story of his confused motivations. The debate on the access to guns, also, is something that is not a brand new discussion. I had to nod in agreement when a TV commentator on late night said that the fact that nothing in our gun laws changed after the shootings in Sandy Hook - when schoolchildren were shot in killed in their classrooms - there's little hope that they will ever change.

On Wednesday night, my children were in Bible study.  In fact, they had begged me to take them because they had such a good time on Tuesday night, so I drove back and forth taking one to her swim meet and the others to church.  Then, what a change overnight.  On Thursday night, I had second thoughts about taking them back.  I was on the other side of town, so it would've been easy to use that as the perfect excuse.  But we went. Because we can't operate out of a place of fear.  And what does that say about our faith if we fall to fear?

The adult lesson for Thursday night was out of Exodus, as Moses stood on the banks of the Red Sea, wondering how the children of Israel were going to cross over and escape their oppression.  He said to the people, "Fear ye not." (Exodus 14:13) The minister said that there are reminders to "fear not" at least 365 times in the Bible - one for each day of the year.

We keep moving, trying not to be afraid. But we keep finding less and less places to feel safe.  So what are we supposed to do?  We keep loving our kids and teaching them to love others. We hug them and pray that they are safe until we see them again, whether its when they get off the school bus or we pick them up from church or when we wake up in the morning. We keep praying, holding on to faith and holding on to hope.

I don't know that I have anything else to add to the conversation around the killing of nine people in Emanuel AME Church in Charleston SC.  But this is my small voice in what I hope will be a large, cacophonous noise for change.

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