Last night while attending Sojourners’ annual conference, The Summit, I heard from Senator Elizabeth Warren, Jim Wallis, C.T. Vivian, and so many other legends in their fields. Afterwards, I stood in a small circle with others, discussing faith, justice, and reconciliation. I was the lone white face in my group of five; the other four were African-American, faith- and thought-leaders all.
One person, the only man in the group, referenced white supremacy. My ears perked up and I wondered, “Is that really a large part of the issue anymore?” I waited for a break in conversation so I could ask, “Aren’t we dealing more with subtle, insidious, and implicit biases these days?”
I never got the chance to ask. This morning at 5:00 a.m. when I picked up my phone to hit snooze, I saw an NPR alert: nine dead. I knew without question that those nine were black. Turing on CNN confirmed it, and I cried. No one had yet said the gunman was a white supremacist, but what else could he be? Who other than someone who feels his life supreme could take the lives of nine others, cause such aching disbelief and sorrow to their friends and family, and bring such hot pain to those around the nation who, like me, woke to tears and rage and confusion and heartache?
This morning, the words spoken by faith leader Lisa Sharon Harper fewer than twelve hours before came to me time and again. I heard her voice in my head, her description of the moment she realized we are not done with the fight of the sixties — there is still much work to be done. Along with those words I saw an image. An image also fewer than twelve hours old, of C.T. Vivian speaking of his part in the cause of racial justice, something he’s worked on since he was barely older than my oldest son, and I wondered — into how many pieces did his heart break this morning?
I woke my husband as 5:52am as he had asked me to do. He’s flexing his schedule today for our daughter’s preschool graduation. Something so normal. So sweet.
“Andy,” I said. “It’s time. The shower is all yours.”
A tired and silent nod told me he had heard. I paused, wondering if I should tell him so early or not.
He cracked one eye.
“There’s been another shooting. Nine are dead. A hate crime, at a church, during bible study.”
I could tell it was too early for him to process this news. I myself am still processing it, and will be for quite some time.
I am attending a conference of faith leaders this week, with a large focus on race issues. Leaders from Ferguson are here. Leaders from the sixties are here. I am here — learning, watching, praying. I selfishly wondered how this would change things. Would our speakers fly off to Carolina? Perhaps. They are needed.
I prayed this morning for those dead. Their families. The shooter. Our nation. My sense of urgency to find actualization through hopeful perseverance. I was tired then, waiting for the coffee to kick in. As I found my prayers become disjointed, unfocused with fatigue, I turned from my own sad and angry pleas to the most needed prayer of all: Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy.
Dear God in your mercy, hear our prayers.