Black Churches Burning in the South

wesleyBy Wesley Morris, Union Theological Seminary and Beloved Community Center

I still think about Charleston, SC and the Mother Emanuel Church. I still think about the dozens of black churches burned in the south during the following days and weeks and the slow movement of the federal government to deem the fires hate crimes.

I love my mother and father and they still go to bible study. The Pastor, other members and visitors join them seeking a good word and study to encourage them through the week. Some travel over thirty miles to make it there at 7:00PM, Raleigh, NC, every Wednesday. That good word over the years has added to the church, our refuge, our peace and those walls.

There is a stirring inside of those walls, inside our black flesh. I sense it just beyond the reach of my understanding. That is why we must look into the fire and bring back the church that survives. The faith constantly embattled and persecuted from every side. The wounded compassion somehow outlasts its pain and walks with us into tomorrow, after each today.

When a black church is burned, it is not the building alone that has been reduced to ashes and laid bare on a concrete slab. The process of transformation and sustaining winds that moved from heart to heart and chest to chest are there too. Generations of “I love you’s” or “help Mrs. Vinnie with the offering” or “dear lord thank you for helping me along my way and seeing me through another week” or “turn to page 27 in your hymnal please”. The potential of walking into that *place* is now a scent in the air. Some are rebuilt and some have been rebuilt more than once, but I am clear, it is not a building that is being burned, these are more than names and obituaries. We live and live again by that name. Challenged and teetering on its side, it is still ours and we have worked hard to make it so.

The names that survive:

Clementa Pinckney, 41
Tywanza Sanders, 26
Cynthia Hurd, 54
Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, 45
Myra Thompson, 59
Ethel Lee Lance, 70
Rev. Daniel Simmons, 74
Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor, 49
Susie Jackson, 87


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