It's been a crazy week. Not just for my family but for our nation and our world.
A madman walked into a church and killed nine of Gods children just four days ago. I wish as I was writing this I could say this was a unique occurrence but we live in a world where this has happened before, and unfortunately it will probably happen again. The only thing that made this different was that instead of just walking in and opening fire this young man sat with them, was given a place of honor as a visitor at the Pastor's right hand during the Bible study they shared, and then shot them in cold blood.
As I write this I am sitting in my own church surrounded by members and visitors of my church, friends and family. Sitting here the real tragedy of Charleston occurs to me: how many of the people who walked in these doors for the first time are going to be welcomed less warmly because of what that madman did? Are the greeters at our doors going to be wary of them? If I'm asking these questions all the way in Oregon, how are the members of "Mother Emmanuel" dealing with these questions this morning as they gather in the sanctuary to tell the world they will not be shaken or moved from that holiest of places?
Our churches are supposed to be safe. Our culture uses the term "Sanctuary" to mean not just the place where the faithful meet, but also to refer to a state of safe passage free from attack. For centuries holy ground has been a place of safety for people to meet and find peace. For many of our children that assurance of safety has now been lost, and with it a part of their innocence we all would have preferred to have there forever. Emmanuel AME is a proud church with a proud and storied past though. This may be the first time you or I have had to think about these things but the history of the American South during the Civil War and even during the Civil Rights movement not only features Charleston, SC....it prominently featured this very church. Look it up, you will be amazed at the history of this church you likely had never heard of before Wednesday night. They walked on then, they'll walk on in faith now. They'll pray hard. We'll pray with them and for them, and just as he always has God will use all things according to his purpose.