Cora Lee Brown, the granddaughter of The Reverend George Phillips, pastor of our congregation (then Tenth Avenue Baptist Church) from 1918-1940 recently sent me some photos taken at an Easter Sunday Worship Service sometime in the 1930’s. The packed pews, the Easter finery, the abundance of hats started me thinking of all the lives that have touched us over the years and all the lives we have touched.
It would be a difficult to argue for any one event, program or ministry being the most important thing our congregation has ever done. Indeed, the significance of most ministries is in their cumulative impact rather than in any one happening. Yet, it seems clear that among the most important things we have ever done is hosting the Ceasefire Call-ins. The following is a reflection I wrote as I waited for lat Thursday’s Call-in to begin. I shared it in my sermon on March 30 and several asked to have it writing.
It is 4:00 p.m., Thursday, March 27. I am nervous, slightly apprehensive. Lakeshore Avenue Baptist Church is hosting a Call-in tonight. Already the police are in front of the church directing traffic, making sure the location is secure. It is always a little startling to walk up the street to the church and see all the police cars. What must the young men invited to the Call-in feel as they arrive here…At a Call-in gang members identified by the police and probation departments as having the potential to commit violent crime are invited to sit at the table with community leaders (clergy, law enforcement, District Attorney’s office, U.S. Attorney’s office, victims of violent crime, representatives of recovery and job training programs, potential employers and others) and hear the message that they are valued members of our community, that there are positive alternative available to them but that the shooting and other violent acts that their gangs have been part of need to stop…The Call-ins are part of a strategy named Ceasefire. Ceasefire was first implemented in Boston and is described by David Kennedy of John Jay College of Criminal Justice in his book “Don’t Shoot: One Man, A Street Fellowship, And The End of Violence In Inner-City America.” It is an evidence-based, community-centered approach to the violence that afflicts so many American cities…Kennedy writes, “The government is not conspiring to destroy the community, the police are not uncaring, oppressive, racist. The community does not like the drugs and violence. Gang members and drug dealers don’t want to die, don’t want to go to prison, don’t want – nearly all of them – to shoot people.”…”They are all doing profoundly destructive things without fully understanding what they do. There is on all sides malice, craziness and evil. But not much, it turns out, not much at all. There is, on all sides, a deep reservoir of core human decency.”…My hope is that as we sit at the table with the young men our discussion will tap in all of us, Baptist preachers included, this reservoir of core human decency…Is not the tapping of this reservoir the very art of peace making…There is profound theology at work here, the theology of original blessing, the recognition of persistent sin. There is the reminder that each person at the table is created in the image of God, that each one of us wants to go home happy tonight…As the community gathers may this theology not be forgotten, may it strengthen the ties that bind, may it help save lives. Amen.
I trust you will be able to join us as we gather in worship this coming Sunday. The Handbell Ensemble will be playing, a service of Communion will be observed and we will welcome Pastor Allison back from her sabbatical. The Communion Offering will be for the LABC Scholarship Fund.
Prayers of the Congregation
- All who are grieving, there are memorial services for Dick Ice, and Gloria Meads brother in law, Carlos, this weekend
- Virginia Cheatham, at home under hospice care
- LeAnn Flesher for her Uncle Ray, broken hip
- Shirley Jones, health concerns
- The people of Ukraine and Russia
- The participants in the most recent Call-In
- The victims of and responders to the landslide in Washington
- The people of Chile affected by the recent earthquake
- Mary Karne for Maryla
- Marie Johnson for a friend
- Kay Baxter Reid for her family
- George and Sylvia Lee
- Carol and Steve Leichter
- Ted and Doris Evans
- Zondra Martin for her family
- All our shut ins
- Thanksgiving for the ministry of our Hunger Task Force
- Ann Fields for her family
- Paul Keener for Yan Li, Erik, Robert, Gertrude and Mary
- Larry Hutchings on the recent death of friends, Mary, Donna and Rachel
The memorial service for Dick Ice will be this Saturday at 11:00 in the Sanctuary. A reception will follow.