Geoffrey Black invited to preach, pray in Ferguson

Geoffrey Black invited to preach, pray in Ferguson

Written by Anthony Moujaes
August 19, 2014

As the nation keeps a watchful eye on the events in Ferguson, Mo., the Rev. Geoffrey A. Black will join local United Church of Christ ministers on the ground to give pastoral support to the community.

Black, UCC general minister and president, is traveling to Ferguson at the invitation of the Missouri Mid-South Conference and local pastors in the St. Louis area who are praying, listening and counseling the community through the anger and grief following a fatal police shooting. Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old African American, was shot six times by a white Ferguson police officer, setting off prayers and protests, seemingly from every corner of the nation.

“The city of Ferguson is overwhelmed with anger, fear and a sense of injustice, and members of that community need to feel the hope that they will one day heal,” Black said. “As leaders in the faith community, United Church of Christ pastors are helping the community deal with the grief. I felt it was my pastoral duty to stand in solidarity with those who are suffering and to try to help them make sense of such a senseless situation.

“While we have heartfelt concerns for the family of Michael Brown and all the people of St. Louis, this issue of police violence in a predominately African American community has a long history in this country,” Black continued. “The current conflict in Ferguson is the latest in a long series of similar events, and the road to rebuilding what has been broken must begin now.”

The Rev. Felicia Scott, pastor of St. Jordan’s UCC in Jeffriesburg, Mo., and one of the ministers on the ground in Ferguson, believes Black’s visit highlights the UCC’s commitment to racial justice as the unrest there gains more attention each day.

“There is a historic backbone to the UCC of peace and justice,” Scott said. “I think because that’s who we represent in our churches, that is who is present in the community. This is bigger than a St. Louis issue – this is a national issue, so we are responding not only locally, but nationally.”

Church leaders of the UCC have actively organized the local faith community in an attempt to heal the St. Louis community, while calling for justice and transparency in the details surrounding Brown’s shooting. That will continue during Black’s visit on Wednesday.

During his time in Missouri, Black will be among a group of religious leaders visiting the grounds of the Canfield Green Apartments where Brown lived and died, a neighborhood which has become a rallying place for protestors. He will then meet with fellow clergy at St. Peter’s United Church of Christ in Ferguson – the closest UCC congregation to the Canfield Green Apartments – to explore ways local churches can respond to this crisis, before preaching at a community interfaith service at the church.

“We just don’t know [how many people will come out], but we are offering communion tomorrow and then [Geoffrey] will offer prayer,” Scott said.

On a peaceful Tuesday afternoon, Scott was joined in the neighborhood by 20 clergy members from Methodist, Baptists, Lutheran, UCC and Jewish congregations.

“Mostly, (people in) the neighborhood have been out. Before, folks were reluctant to be out, so we, the clergy, in an unstructured way, knocked on doors to say, ‘If you need prayer or counselors, we’re here,'” Scott said.

The tension began on Aug. 9, when a police officer in Ferguson, Mo., a predominantly black suburb of St. Louis, shot and killed Brown. The incident first triggered peaceful gatherings and rallies before spilling over into riots and looting. Police have used tear gas and non-lethal force against protestors and even members of the media.

“This is a culmination of many things. This is a straw-that-broke-the camel’s-back incident with the way this was handled as far as militarization and abuse of authority, in a community with racial tension,” Scott said.

Scott was one of several faith leaders who showed up in Ferguson the night of the shooting, knowing there would be a need for pastoral support. In the 10 days since, the group of interfaith clergy has become more organized, working shifts in the neighborhood from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. each day.

“When you show up in collar, that can turn the tide of events,” Scott said.

Original post HERE