It started with a phone call. Rev. Herschel Moore, retired associate minister of Bethany Christian Church in Houston called Rev. Marilyn Fiddmont and her husband, Norman, on June 18, heartbroken over the news of the shootings at Emanuel AME church in Charleston, SC. Moore wanted to reach out share in our pain, anger or whatever we experienced. Moore, who is white, said to the Fiddmonts, who are black, “It just seems like there should be something that we can do.”
Fiddmont replied from her tradition, “We can always pray.”
And with that spark the Fiddmonts and other pastors in the Coastal Plains Area of the Southwest Region got moving to organize the June 25 Service of Solidarity and Healing at noon at Bethany. Starting with a text to Rev. Dr. Tommy Thompson, senior pastor of Bethany, the event blossomed.
Fiddmont said, “What I thought would be a simple prayer, hymn, and sharing time in the parlor, became much more. There was an ecumenical presence with our UCC’s. Rev. Peggy Edge, area minister, greeted the gathering and gave a statement of our purpose, healing, reconciliation and hope. There were probably 100 of us gathered including Charlie Wallace from Hope Partnership.”
Nine white roses represented the victims and their names were called during the litany.
Meditations on peace and hope were shared by Moore and Rev. Dr. Raumone Burton of University Christian Church, Houston. Hispanic pastors and youth provided music. A special litany was contributed by Rev. Kristen Galle, interim at a local United Church of Christ. A “Call to Action” was facilitated by Fiddmont and Thompson which included parts of the pastoral letter from South Carolina Regional Minister Rev. Sotello Long. Small groups reflected on what is at stake.
Wallace said later, “The power of the event was the sharing in small groups. I was impacted by the need for forgiveness but the equally significant need to never forget. May this give us courage to lift up our individual voices along with our joint voices so that we can begin to address the underlying racism in our society.”
Participant Andy Brink said, “I am gathering my strength to give voice to this issue. I am still hurting and mourning at the loss and senselessness of such hatred and violence. As a white male, I am even angry at my own gender and race. I want desperately to show the joy that comes with diversity and eliminate the fears and hate.”
Tamara Fincher, also a participant, reflected, “Hate can NO longer be allowed to grow and spread. I also am no longer listening to or allowing it to go unchallenged. I am concerned with lack of civil discourse on pretty much everything on social media. We can no longer just retreat into our corners and nurse our grudges.”
Edge said after the event, “All who gathered came with an earnest desire to give witness to our anti-racism, pro-reconciling faith that is so important to us as Disciples… Since I live in a multi-cultural neighborhood, my personal commitment is to get to know my neighbors and encourage a spirit of community there.”
The offering was a note card on which participants wrote a note, a prayer, or a hope. These were sent to the South Carolina region to be delivered Mother Emanuel.
Communion was celebrated with Rev. Jenni Fairbanks, and Rev. Hector Velasquez presiding with Fiddmont. Each participant carried home a nail to remind them of the resurrection of Christ.
Doug Threeton, former vocalist with the Houston Opera sang The Prayer of St. Francis.
A reception following the service, sponsored by the Reconciliation team of the Costal Plains Area.