Charleston: We Must All Take Risks

“We cannot allow evil to shut us down…. We have to stay the course…We will not be deterred and we will not be turned around.”





Tragedy in Charleston
Many of us taught or preached this past week on the horrifying murder of 9 members of Emanuel AME in Charleston, South Carolina. And just as surely, as faith formation leaders, we are all weary to the bone of trying once again, to make sense of such hatred; weary of trying to formulate an answer for the families we lead in our places of worship, our schools, and our homes.

Hopefully you have already found resources for dealing with tragedies in a faith context, such as the following: FormaOn ScriptureStorypath

In addition, a willing reader can find tremendous sources of cultural, historic, and academic information by following #charlestonsyllabus.

Signs of Hope
We are weary of teaching yet another Sunday School lesson on the crazy hatred of people and attempting to apply a healing salve. The mass shooting at Emanuel AME is not the first gun or race-based tragedy we have experienced. Violence in the public square has become far too common an occurrence.

And yet, as I scrolled through online resources and listened to various pundits and preachers this weekend, I think I heard something different. The people of Charleston have refused to be victims in their story. The people of Emanuel AME and the people of Charleston, Christian and other, are Easter People. They are agents of hope and change.

“The evidence of their discipleship is in their willingness to forgive,” The Rev. Charles Watkins, Pastor at Morris Brown AME Church, said on NPR’s Sunday Morning Edition. Watkins continued to speak about the open door practice of these historically black churches, saying, “We cannot allow evil to shut us down. Maybe we will be more vigilant…a little more aware of the strangers in our midst. We are essentially doing things the way we have always done it. We have to stay the course…We will not be deterred and we will not be turned around.”

Let us continue in welcoming the stranger, knowing we entertain angels, even while we make ourselves vulnerable.

The past few years have proved to all Americans that these acts of violence are neither unspecified nor one-time events. They are evidence not only of systemic racism in our country, but also a failure to educate. At On Scripture, Linda Sarsour tells us these acts of hatred “require that all of us find our moral courage and take risks to make this world a better place.” In our Scripture, we have a firm foundation in moral courage. In the saints, living and dead, we have scaffolding that will support our actions. In our communities of faith, we have hands to hold and voices to encourage.

For now, we may only be able to weep. But moving forward, it is not enough to wring our hands. We must commit to teaching reconciliation and peace.


Charlotte Hand Greeson is thankful to share her passion for formation as a manager, editor, and writer for Building Faith. She is grateful for twenty years of Navy life, which has exposed her to a variety of churches and formation styles. She lives in Alexandria, Virginia with her husband and two teenagers.

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