Evil took its best shot,
but the Church rose up!
May 14, 2022, changed Buffalo forever with the murders of ten African Americans at the Jefferson Avenue Tops Supermarket on the Eastside of Buffalo. Buffalo immediately became the #1 news story in America. As members of the Body of Christ, we grieved and expressed our horror and heartbreak over the racially motivated hate crime targeting African American brothers and sisters.
But another story of compassion and love immediately began to play out. Over the course of two weeks, we experienced up close and personal 9 unique prayer vigils within blocks of the site. The Church led the way in grieving, prayer, acts of compassion, acts of service, and genuine love. Blocks of white tents sprung up, offering food, clothing, counseling, prayer, and hugs. Most were manned by believers from both local churches as well as volunteers from across the nation.
As Chaplain of the Buffalo Common Council, I shared the word of the Lord with dozens of heart-broken leaders. They were simultaneously dealing with overwhelming personal grief as all around them the City of Good Neighbors wept.
The funerals struck close to home for Deb and me. My friend Pastor Shep Clark lost his Aunt Pearl Young to this hate-filled killer. Remarkably, in an interview with Channel 2, Aeisha Roberston (the mother of Young’s grandchildren) gave insight into Mother Young’s deep personal faith:
Robertson: “She (Mother Young) definitely was a woman of God, by all means,”
Channel 2: “Do you think she would have forgiveness for the shooter?”
Robertson: “Yes. she would. She would pray for him.”
Please continue to pray for victim’s families and all those impacted. Pray for those who lead through untold pain and grief. Pray over long-term trauma.
In such darkness, the good news is that this tragedy is uniting our city racially and denominationally. On Sunday, July 3, 2022, the following statement, signed by 250 WNY church and ministry leaders, filled an entire page in the Buffalo News.
WE THE UNDERSIGNED CHURCH AND MINISTRY LEADERS:
Express our horror and heartbreak over the racially motivated hate crime targeting African Americans at the Jefferson Avenue Tops Supermarket, Buffalo, NY on May 14, 2022. And we deeply grieve for and alongside our neighbors in this community (Romans 12:15).
We therefore commit ourselves to pray for and to support the family members and close friends of the victims, as well as those who witnessed this evil act (Psalm 34:18). And we especially honor the victims themselves, whose names frame this statement (Isaiah 43:1-2).
With sadness and yet righteous anger, we raise our collective voice to vigorously condemn all forms of ethnic prejudice and hate. We embrace the biblical truth that each human being, regardless of ethnicity or cultural background, has been created in the image of God and is to be afforded the respect and dignity of that status (Genesis 1-2; James 3:9-10). Holy Scripture teaches that no ethnicity can claim a superior status over any other since God does not show favoritism (Acts 10:34-35). We denounce any form of racial supremacy, including the specific vile white supremacist ideology demonstrated in this tragic and evil act, as well as all forms of systemic racism, hatred and violence. We condemn every act of hate against any image-bearer of God, and we specifically denounce this targeted attack motivated by the racial hatred of a people solely because they were Black. We further stand and pray against any groups that fuel these horrible crimes and that seek to corrupt young minds and hearts.
Built upon the bedrock of biblical faith, hope and love in and through Christ, together we pledge ourselves, and our churches and ministries, to the ongoing and long-term work of practical care, action and service (Jeremiah 29:7). We commit ourselves to be advocates for racial justice and equity, and to be ministers of reconciliation as a part of the Gospel of Christ our Lord (Ephesians 2:16; 2 Corinthians 5:18).
It is our hope that this open letter serves as a clarion call to all, as together we continue (or begin) to build genuine relationships, friendships, and true partnerships with those of different ethnicities and backgrounds.
Lord, we earnestly ask You to give the comfort and healing from trauma that only You can give as the Savior of the world (2 Corinthians 1: 3-4). Please help us to seriously examine our hearts and lives, rooting out any attitudes of racial and ethnic prejudice, bigotry, hatred and injustice. And lead us into real and unified action for the sake and honor of your Son, in whose name we pray. (Matthew 6: 9-10)
!BUFFALO—STILL BETTER TOGETHER!