What Is the Church to Do in Response to Ferguson?
By Megan R. Herrold
CHICAGO, IL (August 19, 2014) — Following the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown and the ensuing protests and riots in Ferguson, Missouri, many people are asking themselves how the church should respond. Debbie Blue, executive minister of Love Mercy-Do Justice, admits she has the same questions. “I want to do something, but I don’t know what to do,” she said this afternoon.
She suggested, however, that a starting point is to simply acknowledge that a tragedy has happened and to sit and mourn, both with those around us as well as with the wider church.
Blue shared a litany that was originally distributed in 2012 by the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference in the wake of the Trayvon Martin slaying. Blue suggests this updated litany could be used as a resource to help church communities find a way to stand in solidarity with people who are in pain as a result of the events in Ferguson and similar incidents across the nation.
Pointing to Romans 12:15, Blue said that as a church community, we’re called to “rejoice with those who rejoice [and] mourn with those who mourn.” For some of us, that may also mean taking the time to listen and learn why this is such a personal pain, even for people who weren’t directly affected by Michael Brown’s death, she added.
Blue is not directly affected and yet the Michael Brown shooting is personal, she said. The August 9 incident is just the latest in a long history of unarmed black men being killed by police and one of several recent incidents, she said, adding it is a threat faced regularly by African Americans, including her sons, grandsons, nephews, and cousins. Some of her relatives have been victims of racial profiling.
Too often some people are treated as “disposable,” she said. “This matters to God and it has to matter to us. And that’s what the litany is about,” Blue explained. “We can’t be silent.”
Lament acknowledges the pain and lets God’s presence enter into that place of hurt so that healing and hope are possible, Blue said. “That’s what the litany seeks to do.”
Cecilia Williams, ministry initiatives director for Love Mercy-Do Justice, added that even as lament can lead to hope, hope must lead to action.
“There’s a history of the church being at the forefront” of these change movements, Williams said. “Why doesn’t that [still] happen?”
“I think God is saying it’s time to put the humanity back in these situations,” she said.