Kay's Blog

I Know the Kind of People in Charleston, South Carolina

Growing up, I knew where I would be every Wednesday night. It didn’t matter if I was tired, or had a bad cold, or too much homework, or if it was raining cats and dogs. No matter. We were going to prayer meeting. In our small Southern Baptist Church where my dad was the pastor, prayer meeting was the gauge of the depth of commitment of someone’s faith. Anybody could come on Sunday morning; the committed came back Sunday night, and the true saints of God came on Wednesday nights. It almost always began with a potluck supper served on white butcher paper tablecloths. You could eat food from every region in the world in the fellowship hall of our church every Wednesday night – Americanized, of course – and no self-respecting potluck was complete without an outrageous variety of Jello salads that contained mystery ingredients, brown-n-serve rolls (why were those so tasty?) and vast quantities of homemade cakes, pies, and cookies.


Then came Girls in Actions (GAs) or Royal Ambassadors (RA) where girls and boys worked separately to become “kings” and “queens” through Bible memory and missionary activities while the adults listened to another sermon from the overworked pastor who hoped that somebody was listening to his hastily composed message. Choir rehearsal often followed the evening, but the highlight was the time of prayer for congregation. If attendance at Wednesday night prayer meeting was proof of true spirituality, then I grew up with saints.


There weren’t many younger couples with kids by the end of the service– they scooted out after the kids’ activities – but because I had to stay as long as my father did, I took many a late-night nap on hard pews, only vaguely listening to the older folks reciting their aches and pains needing prayer; their many “unspoken” requests, their tears falling as they whispered the names of prodigal husbands, sons and daughters. My dad patiently wrote each request in a notebook, and asked for volunteers to stand and pray for “Sister or Brother So and So’s need.”


I don’t know that we saw many miraculous healings or restored marriages or returned prodigals in our little church – but what I remember most was the faithfulness of the few who gathered each week, each one earnestly seeking God. I caught their pattern of looking to Him for help, guidance, healing, and strength when they were weak. They weren’t mighty heroes of the faith as some might define heroes, and while I can’t remember many of their names, my life was marked by their Christianity.


That’s one of the reasons I felt like I had been kicked in the stomach last night when I learned of the shootings in Charleston, South Carolina. I KNOW the kind of people that were in that sacred place of worship – they were probably the faithful intercessors there to support their church, their pastors and their fellow church members. They were likely the kind who could be counted on to be there regardless of weather, fatigue, illness, hardship, or cost. They were the pillars of the church. As a pastor’s daughter, and now the wife of a pastor, I wept for the loss of their beloved pastor – their shepherd committed to taking tender care of his flock. There is unfathomable sadness and anger that these committed brothers and sisters were murdered specifically because they were black. That they were murdered at a Wednesday night prayer meeting just adds one more poignant layer to the horrible crime.


Most of us are horrified and shocked and feel helpless to change systemic racism and I certainly don’t have a brilliant plan. God does. The church of Jesus Christ is the ONLY effective weapon I know of that can knock a hole in the ugliness and sin of racism. Multi-ethnic churches provide the opportunity for people to do life together – and when they do, barriers begin to fall and love can grow. My only hope is in the church – where all come together at the foot of the Cross, all equally in need of a Savior, and find forgiveness, restoration and recognition that we belong to the same Body of Christ. It’s Thursday, not Wednesday, but I’m praying.

Posted by Kay Warren with 1 Comments
Susan Hanis Duchene on March 25, 2017 10:57am

I am grateful that you have provided a safe space to share feelings of anger and hurt surrounding this act of systemic racism.

In the last two months, in the beautiful city of Mission Viejo, my youngest son of color has experienced:
•a group of young people shouting "nigger" from a car as they passed him while he jogged
•as a greeter at a nearby restaurant, he approached a group to greet and seat them. After several attempts and no response from the group, they requested that someone else seat them. My son's manager later congratulated him on handling the situation with grace and professionalism.
•a security guard at the housing development where we live, followed my son in his patrol car as he jogged through our neighborhood. This was not the first time. At some point, my son stopped and approached the security guard, held out his hand and introduced himself. The man ignored him and my son jogged home. The security guard followed my son to our front door. My son shared this with my husband and I as he came in to our home. My husband and I went outside to introduce ourselves to the security guard. We explained that Jonathan is our son and lives with us in our home. Jonathan has not experienced this again.

Many of us know the battles of spiritual warfare. For many of our brothers and sisters of color, their tormentor has a physical form. True, the Church of Jesus Christ is the ONLY effective weapon in this spiritual battle. We are the church, ambassadors for Christ, called to "love our neighbor as ourselves". Moving beyond "color blindness", I encourage folks to see color, be conscious of our neighbors of color and go out of our way to exhibit the love of Christ to everyone, including those who may live marginalized lives, suffering the effects of institutionalized racism, in silence. We are ambassadors for Christ. Each one of us in our own sphere of influence where the Lord has placed us, to "help to carry our brothers and sisters burdens" by loving lavishly, as Christ, at church, work, Trader Joe's, the gym, in our schools, the nail shop, Soul Food Kitchen Homeless Ministry.

My hope is that we go out of our way to love and embrace our neighbors, because "There is no greater love than to lay down one's life for friends," John 15:13. God's love heals, causes the burden to lighten. In the words of Mother Teresa, "We can do no great things - only small things with great love."

My precious son who hurts and struggles to manage the anger of being persecuted, shares that the solution is, "Mom, we have to love each other."

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