After police shootings, Dallas ambush, some churches plan special sermons, prayers
DALLAS — “What will you say on Sunday? Will your message be different than originally planned given what has occurred in our nation this week? If so, how?”
The Christian Chronicle asked preachers those questions in the wake of Thursday night’s slayings of five Dallas police officers, which followed what had been a peaceful protest over the police shootings of black men in Baton Rouge, La., and Falcon Heights, Minn., earlier in the week.
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Here are some of their responses:
“It will be different. Not sure what yet. My father-in-law is a police officer, and my three nephews are black. This week has hit me hard. I’m still seeking God for what to say, but he has convicted me that something must be said.” — Jeff Dunn, East Side Church of Christ, Snyder, Texas
Antwan D. Brown
“This has hit me in more ways than one. I am a black American law enforcement officer, and if I remain silent about these tragedies, I do all of us an injustice. My series this month is, ‘The Healings of the Fruit of the Spirit,’ which I suppose is timely (I credit God). So I will take this time to really speak on love and how it is hard for a people to know joy and peace when they are not shown love or it is not demonstrated towards them.” — Antwan D. Brown, Barton Avenue Church of Christ, Luling, La.
“We are in Acts 4, ‘Bold Faith.’ I was going to speak more about the general ideas of that, but after this week, I am moving to talk about recognizing the marginalized and bringing them into the presence of God. … I will also be encouraging our church to begin a campaign to honor and commend the officers and public servants that have gone above and beyond the call of duty.” — Andrew Hill, Mountain Avenue Church of Christ, Tucson, Ariz.
Roger Woods “I am speaking on how faith in Christ gives us courage (planned a month ago). I was already using an MLK quote about fear knocks, faith answered … so I will address the situation by talking about how our faith must be strong so that we are not held captive by fear.” — Roger Woods, Walled Lake Church of Christ, Michigan
“I have scrapped the planned sermon. We will talk about the lament Psalms — and yes, we will have a dialogue. I will ask how people are doing emotionally, spiritually. So it will not be a normal sermon. I understand that Southside may be unique and not everyone is welcome to have such an informal time of teaching. I agree — we do not always need a sermon.” — Randy Clay, Southside Church of Christ, Salt Lake City
“God willing, I start with a prayer for grace and mercy, as I call forward two of our African-American shepherds and also call forward two of our police officers (one white and one African-American).” — Dan Cooper, Pitman Church of Christ, Sewell, N.J.
We’re Hurting: Today’s front page of The Dallas Morning News. pic.twitter.com/bORzxJRybh
— Dallas Morning News (@dallasnews) July 9, 2016
“I was planning on speaking on ‘The Power of an Action’ anyway, and I will mention these events in that love is not lover in word only but manifested through our action or inactions and that Christ expects us to be known by our love, which often means action. We are not in a very diverse area, however, and with the minority groups that are here, there’s not much struggle. South Dakota is fairly isolated from national trends for better or worse, and the people I talk to from minority groups say they’re treated great here.” — Thomas Pruett, minister, Northern Hills Church of Christ, Belle Fourche/Spearfish, S.D.
“I will preach the gospel, and our good men will lead the congregation in prayer. We always pray for those in uniform.” — Charlie Harrison, Brunswick Church of Christ, Maine
“I will preach on being a disciple of Jesus.” — Leo Woodman, Desert Church of Christ, Kingman, Ariz.
Minister and elder Steve Byrne, right, minister and elder for the Pearl Harbor Church of Christ in Honolulu, shakes hands with Ra’heim Bass. (PHOTO BY BOBBY ROSS JR.)
“I was already planning on preaching about one of the virtues of godliness that we need to allow the Spirit to instill in us and will still do so.
“When Jesus was confronted with some of the headlines of his day, he responded as follows in Luke 13:1-5 (ESV): ‘There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.’
“I dwelt on this passage briefly after the Orlando massacre and will likely mention it again this Sunday. However, my thought is that the final, biblical ‘answer’ to the turmoil our society is enduring is not to be found in preaching that is guided/dictated by the headlines, no matter how severe they may be. After all, tragedies will never cease in this fallen world.
“Instead, we humans must become individually people who reflect the heart of God as revealed in Jesus, and who thereby influence other individuals to do so as well. Society is most effectively transformed one individual heart at a time, and that reality never changes. Therefore, no particular tragedy should be necessary to motivate us to preach in that regard.
“That said, a special time of fellowship set aside to assist folks in processing what is happening may well be in order.” — Steve Byrne, Pearl Harbor Church of Christ, Honolulu
Ron Clark “My first response was to email, instant-message and text my friends and colleagues who are people of color. I confirmed this is injustice and asked what I, as a white minister, should do. Received positive response and thanks for reaching out. Second, we are in James, so I will adjust it but plan to focus on what is happening. Third, I have asked our worship leader to lead us in prayer and share his feelings as a ‘black Christian man,’ which is how he identifies himself. Our hope is that Agape can not only grieve together but continue to confront racism, injustice, and oppression.” — Ron Clark, Agape Church of Christ, Portland, Ore.
“I am making a very brief video to show at the (predominantly black) Fifth Ward congregation in Houston for this Sunday, reaffirming our solidarity with them, and their preacher, Gary Smith, is making one to show at my (predominantly white) congregation, Memorial.” — David Duncan, Memorial Church of Christ, Houston
“Plan to have a special prayer. I am preaching right now about fear, and this week is Joshua 1, a text that speaks to concerns of fear, anxiety and uncertainty about the future.” — Steve Cloer, Southside Church of Christ in Fort Worth, Texas
“My topic for Sunday is, ‘Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.’ I will not stray too far from my originally planned message but may mention the events of this week. We certainly will set aside a special time this Sunday for our leaders to pray.” — Trent Wheeler, Lake Butler Church of Christ, Florida
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