By Hamil R. Harris, Special to the AFRO
On Saturday May 19, a small framed African American preacher stood in St. George’s Chapel adjacent to Windsor Castle and lit a fire to the royal family by preaching about, “The Redemptive Power of Love” days before coming back to the United States to ignite a flame about activism.
Five days after he spoke at the wedding for the Duke and the Duchess of Sussex, the Rt. Rev. Michael Curry, the 27th Presiding Bishop and first African American to lead the Episcopal Church in the U.S. led a candle light march to the White House after he spoke at the National City Christian Church.
The sanctuary, foyer and steps of National City were filled as Curry spoke to a standing room only crowd about the redemptive power of love. In a statement, Curry connected his message in England with his work in the U.S.
“ As elders, we view bringing the “Reclaiming Jesus” declaration to the public square as a tangible example of how to live out that way of love,” Curry Said.
“We are Christian leaders bearing moral witness to the teachings of our faith in the public square. As citizens we want our government to reflect our values. As a Bishop I believe we should follow the teachings of Jesus – who taught us to love God and love our neighbor.”
Curry and leaders from the Episcopal, Lutheran, Methodist churches and a range of other faith groups called on President Trump to make a paradigm shift in rhetoric and policies that are dividing the nation.
“We came together, liberal and conservative and everything in the middle. What binds us together is Jesus Christ and his way, his teaching and his life,” Curry said. “And when we leave this place this is not a protest march, this is a procession of Christian people. This is what they did on Pentecost, this is a Pentecostal moment.”
Curry was referring to the Day of Pentecost, which according to the New Testament is when the Holy Spirit descended on a group of Jesus’ followers, including his mother and the apostles, and caused them to speak in many languages or “tongues” 50 days (Pentecost literally means 50) after Easter. According to PBS Newshour, the first Pentecost marks the beginning of the Christian Church.
Rev. William H Lamar IV, Pastor of the Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church in D.C., stood in the doors of National City Christian Church because he said it was important to take part in this event.
“We are here tonight because our faith demands that we stand in confrontation of injustice that is sweeping the nation, injustice against the immigrants, the poor, the incarcerated and doesn’t mind using the most vile and racist terms to dehumanize God’s people to unite. You see there are Black people here, White people here, gay people here, straight people, Christian people and people of no faith. We will not stop until justice is a reality in the United States of America.”
After gathering at the church, people silently walked to Lafayette Square May 24 where they offered prayerful petitions in front of the White House to challenge President Trump for policies that some leaders charge has put the nation in a moral crisis.
Rev. Barbara Skinner, a former faith adviser to President Obama, was one of the organizers of the rally and silent March that drew several thousand people to the gates of the White House while President Trump was inside. During the vigil she offered a special prayer to change hearts going forward.
“My prayer at the gate was: Lord please touch the hearts of our leaders in the Congress and the White House that they have compassion and mercy for all Gods children,” Skinner said in an interview with the AFRO. “We are fighting racism at every level because it demeans the divine imprint. Our battle is not against Trump but to address the needs of all Americans whose jobs are not coming back. This is a message of love.”
Skinner said that leaders of this new movement are planning a series of organizational meetings to build bridges with a new generation of clergy of many races and background to forge a common agenda.
But change is already coming. While the elders of this movement were speaking inside the church at Thomas Circle, the steps leading into the historic sanctuary became a diverse quilt of many: Black and White, old and young.
Rev. Leslie Copeland Tunes, Director of Ecumenical Advocacy Days, a progressive group of ministers who have challenged those on the so-called Religious Right weighed in on the importance of the gathering.
“For us to come together, for us to say that we are reclaiming Jesus from those who have hijacked and distorted the gospel and for us to proclaim that it is a liberating gospel,” Copeland Tunes said. “To say that Jesus loves the poor and cares for the poor and we are not going to stand for policies that discriminate against people.”