Filtering by Category: Reconciliation

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Christian Leaders Respond to 'Literally Satanic' Shooting at Charleston Church; 4,000 Residents Gather for Vigil

Christian Leaders Respond to 'Literally Satanic' Shooting at Charleston Church; 4,000 Residents Gather for Vigil

Christian leaders and organizations condemned the killing of nine African-American men and women at the Bible study of a Charleston church this week, acknowledging the "sin of racism" in America, even as more than 4,000 residents and leaders of different faiths came together for a vigil in the shaken city.

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As Baltimore Burns, Christian Leaders Get Ready to Put Out the Fire at Reconciled Church Summit in Orlando

As pockets of East and West Baltimore erupted in flames and riot on Monday night over the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray who died on April 19 after suffering serious injury while in police custody, a diverse coalition of Christian leaders from across the country gathered at First Baptist Orlando church in Florida Tuesday to discuss ways in which the church can intervene and prevent these eruptions before they even start.

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For pastors, march to racial harmony led pair to 'Selma'

For pastors, march to racial harmony led pair to 'Selma' For pastors, march to racial harmony led pair to 'Selma'

Just as many Americans were celebrating the birth of the Prince of Peace, "Selma" marched into select movie theaters to remind us of a time not so long ago when peace was in short supply.

I experienced "Selma" last month. It blew me away. To say the least, the film captured in a way that is both visceral and instructional not only the Selma-to-Montgomery march for voting rights, but also a thick chapter of our history that is at once shameful and triumphant.

Someone once declared, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

The sad corollary is that people without knowledge of the past lack the context needed to understand current events.

That includes the recent attacks on voting and the disdain of protests over the deaths of unarmed black males at the hands of police — who under the protective wing of Jim Crow could brutalize and kill blacks with impunity.

For that, "Selma" offers clarity. Yet, perhaps the greatest service the movie provides — a lesson we desperately must absorb — is that the great unfinished march for civil rights isn't a black thang. It's an American thing.

What better reminder than seeing blacks, whites, Catholics, Jews, Christians and others locked arm in arm like a human charm bracelet walking into the heart of withering oppression at 30 frames per second.

Little did I know that harmonizing sentiment was rebooting here in Central Florida.

A couple of months ago, Joel Hunter received a phone call from Oprah and Joshua DuBois, who formerly ran the Office of Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships under President Barack Obama.

They shared a vision of multiracial congregations across the country watching "Selma" together and talking afterward about reconciliation.

Hunter, senior pastor of Northland, A Church Distributed, in Longwood, was sold. Indeed, for Hunter — for whom King's assassination inspired his turn to faith — the chat recalled a resonant failure.

In the Trayvon Martin aftermath, Hunter joined with Sanford Pastors Connecting, a multiracial group that Sanford police credit with helping tamp down simmering tensions. Quartets of pastors haunted the courtroom, prayed throughout the trial and plowed the way for meaningful dialogue in Sanford.

Yet after that initial cultivation, the reality of continuing, intentional interaction withered.

So Hunter phoned the Rev. Paul Wright. His church, Calvary Temple of Praise, hosted the first Sanford Pastors Connected group meeting. Wright relished the notion of joining Hunter's congregation for a march into "Selma."

Police, community leaders and congregants from both churches filled two theaters, some 500-strong.

For two hours, there was a hush as the n-word crashed into viewers' ears and tire irons, barbed-wire-wrapped sticks and billy clubs crashed into marchers' skulls.

When the lights came up, so did the stories.

Blacks of a certain age recalled the brick walls erected as they tried to register to vote in their own Selmas. Others recalled injustices they'd witnessed in Sanford.

"People literally were in tears after the movie, wondering how people could do that to one another," Hunter says. "Even though the mood was very sober, the conversation afterward was very hopeful."

Such success demands duplication. Communities everywhere should crib the idea.

For sure, "Selma" offers a fine opening gambit. However, these conversations to marshal thoughtful discussion and broker understanding and kinship needn't only occur in darkened theaters over hot-buttered popcorn.

"The need for dialogue is obvious because we don't have legal segregation, but we do have de facto segregation, in the way we live and in that most of our conversations are among those who look like us," Hunter says.

"... If we make the effort to talk often enough, have friends not of our race, not of our social groups, that will build a much better community in the future."

Now comes the challenge. Even if the spirit is willing, follow-through can be weak. "Selma" may have revived the conversation. But the connecting can't stop after the credits roll. or 407-420-5095


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Pastors hope film will rekindle racial reconciliation in Sanford

Pastors hope film will rekindle racial reconciliation in Sanford Pastors hope film will rekindle racial reconciliation in Sanford

Black and white pastors are hoping the movie Selma will renew efforts toward racial reconciliation in Sanford that started with the death of Trayvon Martin.

Northland Church Pastor Joel Hunter and Calvary Temple of Praise Pastor Paul Wright say the film, which opens Jan. 9, can restart discussions on the unfinished business of the civil rights movement for blacks and whites.

"What I want to do as a white pastor is to continue to be part of the civil rights movement. This movie gives us a chance to re-engage with each other," Hunter said.

Wright said his congregation discusses issues of race and injustice on a regular basis, but the film brings those conversations out in the open for interracial dialogue.

"I think the black communality wants reconciliation. I believe the white community wants reconciliation. We just have to understand the terms of what is expected," Wright said. "We can't resolve it until we can understand it."

Members of Northland and Calvary Temple will watch the movie together, along with other community leaders and law enforcement, at a special premier on Jan. 6 in Altamonte Springs. The screening will be followed by a discussion.

"This gives us an opportunity going forward not only to discuss the movie, but to discuss our present day issues," Wright said.

The film comes at a time when the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. and Eric Garner in New York City have exposed the tension and mistrust between blacks and law enforcement. It's the same dynamic that existed in Sanford when George Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon Martin in 2012.

Sanford escaped the violence that followed the deaths of Brown and Garner in other cities, largely because of the work between the black community and the police department, facilitated by the interracial organization called Sanford Pastors Connecting, said Sanford Police Chief Cecil Smith.

"Sanford went through a bad time, but the leadership and the partnership of the pastors allowed the community to have a voice," Smith said. "Trayvon Martin was a fire that lit our community, but what it also did was allow us to see our deficiencies, not just in the police department or in City Hall, but in all of our communities."

Just as Selma is a reminder of the unfinished business of race relations in the United States, the riots in response to Brown and Garner brings to mind the unfinished business of the Sanford Pastors Connecting, the pastors said.

"We really have not come to the full hopes of that group which was to effect on-going racial reconciliation in Sanford," Hunter said. "The original purpose was to bring the races together to make a healthy community as we go forward into these perilous times." or 407-420-5392

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