By Nathan Hosler
On Tuesday evening, Sept. 1, the African Methodist Episcopal Coalition held a worship service in Washington, D.C. I had received the invitation from the National Council of Churches (NCC) the week before in my capacity with the Church of the Brethren’s Office of Public Witness, but it was also relevant for my role as a minister in Washington City Church of the Brethren.
The invitation read: “In the wake of the tragic shootings in Charleston, S.C., in June, as well as the many other incidents of racial injustice that have occurred in our nation, the African Methodist Episcopal Coalition will hold a special worship service at 7 p.m. on Sept. 1 at John Wesley AME Zion Church.” So in line with the denomination’s deep desire to seek the peace of Jesus through a commitment to solidarity with historic black churches and racial justice, I attended this event.
The worship service was held at John Wesley African Methodist Episcopal Church in northwest Washington. I had passed the building on a bicycle on several occasions but had never entered. While the NCC had sent out an invitation on their behalf, and visiting leaders and staff from other denominations were acknowledged, this was said to be a “family gathering” by the leaders speaking to a group of several hundred people. Although the gathering was not “for” me, either denominationally or racially, I was welcomed as a brother in Christ.
Close to half of the group were clergy from the Christian Methodist Episcopal, African Methodist Episcopal, and African Methodist Episcopal Zion churches. The purpose was a call to greater action within these churches to address racism and injustice that their communities face.
The sermon by Bishop Lawrence L. Redick II considered God’s calling of the boy Samuel. The bishop noted that in “those days” the “word of God was precious,” or “rare” in another translation, drawing parallels and exhortation for today. He also observed that this was before the boy Samuel “knew God” and concluded that the venerable church leaders who remembered the days of the Civil Rights Movement should welcome the moving of the Spirit and leadership in the young leaders organizing on the streets across the country.
The next day, Wednesday, Sept. 2, we gathered at the National Press Club. In this event the focus shifted outward and included specific policy recommendations from the Coalition which urged legislators to deal with issues of racism, criminal justice, educational reform, economic justice, gun control, and voting rights.
Events continued on at a White House briefing that I was unable to attend. A theme repeated often was that these events were not the end, but the beginning, as a confession and recommitment to action as churches.
An immediate next step is a call to a day of prayer and preaching in our congregations on Sept. 6. A Day of Confession on Sunday, Sept. 6, has been announce by the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church for congregations across the nation to take time for confession related to racism during their Sunday services. The theme is “Liberty and Justice for All: Day of Confession, Repentance, Prayer, and Commitment to End Racism.”
An invitation to take part reads: “Racism will not end with the passage of legislation alone; it will also require a change of heart and thinking. This is an effort which the faith community must lead, and be the conscience of the nation. We will call upon every church, temple, mosque, and faith communion to make their worship service on this Sunday a time to confess and repent for the sin and evil of racism, this includes ignoring, tolerating, and accepting racism and to make a commitment to end racism by the example of our lives and actions.”
For more information and resources go to www.ame-church.com/liberty-and-justice-for-all .
-- Nathan Hosler is director of the Church of the Brethren Office of Public Witness, located in Washington, D.C., and a minister at Washington City Church of the Brethren.