ON JUNE 18, 2015, 350 leaders “committed to changing the world through faith and justice” came to Catholic University in Washington, D.C., for Sojourners’ annual gathering, The Summit. The planned sessions that day included “Criminalization of Blackness, Poverty, and Youth,” “Implicit Bias 2.0,” and “An Examination of Restorative and Transformative Justice Models.” As we gathered, we began to hear news of a horrible tragedy that had occurred the night before at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C. We learned that nine church members were killed by a white supremacist during a Bible study. Our gathering became a time to hold one another in prayerful lamentation and shared grief.
As the seventh anniversary of that terrible evening approached, Rev. James Forbes, who served for almost two decades as senior pastor of New York’s Riverside Church, reflected on the scripture the group was studying that night, the parable of the sower from Mark 4. In this issue, Forbes imagines a conversation with the deadly visitor to that Bible study and wonders if any of the gospel message fell on fertile soil for the visitor that night—and, more important, for the rest of us.