It started like a typical Sunday morning. I watched Pink Robe Chronicles, then jumped in the shower and dressed for church. After service, I grabbed a late lunch on the outdoor patio at Pappasito’s and read an article for next week’s class. The weather was perfect. After lunch, I went home for a short nap before heading to the local mosque to join the candlelight vigil for Atatiana Jefferson.
I awoke from my nap and donned what I deemed to be an appropriate uniform- jeans and a t-shirt bearing the names of several other black men and women who have been killed by police. When I arrived at the street where the mosque was located, near Atatiana’s home, the traffic was gridlocked and the crowd was massive. A diverse gathering stood in solidarity. I parked a couple of streets away and walked up to the mosque with a few friendly faces. I talked with others in the crowd, accepted a candle from a local deacon, then found some colleagues and classmates who stood together chatting.
From my position near the platform, I could see what was happening behind the scenes and I could hear the conversations in front of and behind the megaphone. On the platform, the narrative declared, “We’re not praying. We’re not hugging and passing out bibles. Blow out your candles. We don’t want prayer. We want justice.” Behind the scenes, it appeared that clergy who showed up for photo ops, to sing Kumbaya or “to say they were there” were turned away. Only those who had relationships in the community were permitted past the human barriers. Access was guarded. When the mayor arrived, she was driven away. The space was protected and the moment was preserved.
At some point, the crowd divided. Half remained at the mosque and another half set out on a march toward the highway, determined to make a statement and demand that their voices be heard. “No justice, no peace. No racist police.” I had a decision to make- stay and make a silent statement? or march and “pray with my feet”?
I set out on the journey. No idea how far we were going. No idea how things would turn out. “Women and children in the center.” Strong men with assault rifles on the outsides. As we approached the highway, I saw the wall of armed police officers blocking the on-ramp. First, we walked past them. Then, we made a u-turn and approached them.
I paused for a moment and thought to myself, “this could take a turn for the worst. I could be arrested. I could be caught in the crossfire.” But I made a decision. If I died that night, in solidarity with that community on behalf of that family, then my death would have been a worthy death and my ministry, meaningful.
I survived to preach another day.
But if it so happens that I find myself on the front lines of some fight for justice or in serving some people sans bible and collar, and that place becomes my resting place. Then, somebody stand tall at my funeral and tell people that I was a Christian, that I was a minister, and that I understood.
And if by God’s grace, I survive that moment…may God keep my ministry from ever becoming irrelevant. My preaching, my teaching, my writing, my service…let them hold space and create moments. And when I am given access, inshallah, let me be a living epistle of faith that sweats blood and flips tables.
In Your Mercy.
Asè and Amen