Pastors minister in Ferguson unrest

The continued unrest in Ferguson, MO which have featured protests, violence, and racial tensions, have the country waiting for new news of peace. The conflict revolves around Michael Brown’s murder by the hands of a police officer. Conflicting information from police sparked riots, protests, and demonstration. Local police responded with riot gear only for other departments to be dispatched to try to keep peace.

In the midst of this unrest, pastors and clergy have responded. Ministers in the middle of the Ferguson crisis have sought to provide comfort, direction, and peace. Perhaps under reported are the stories of pastors ministering to protesters, police, and local officials:

Here are some notable stories:

A minister in the middle

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Amid the demonstrations Wednesday, the Rev. Willis Johnson tried to talk down 18-year-old Joshua Wilson. A photo in the Washington Post showed the two in a powerful moment. Johnson says police were ordering protesters to move aside as police advanced, and that he was trying to keep Wilson out of harm’s way. He says he was not attempting to discourage protest. “If anything it was to affirm him — and to affirm both of us — because in that moment, we were being disaffirmed,” Johnson tells NPR’s Melissa Block. “We were being told … that what we were doing was wrong, and it was not wrong.”

A pastor shot:

African Methodist Episcopal Church (AMEC) pastor Renita Lamkin was shot by a rubber bullet by riot police while she was attempting to mediate between the protestors and the police, the Huffington Post reported last week.

A minister sings (as others arrested):

As they took me into custody, the officers slammed me into a soda machine, at one point setting off the Coke dispenser. They put plastic cuffs on me, then they led me out the door. I could see Ryan still talking to an officer. I said: “Ryan, tweet that they’re arresting me, tweet that they’re arresting me.” He didn’t have an opportunity, because he was arrested as well. Eventually a police car arrived. A woman — with a collar identifying her as a member of the clergy — sat in the back. Ryan and I crammed in next to her, and we took the three-minute ride to the Ferguson Police Department. The woman sang hymns throughout the ride.

Reaching out to build peace in Ferguson community:

Down the street is St. Stephen’s Episcopal, where Reverend Steve Lawler has been reaching out this week to members of both the white and black communities. No one he has talked with so far knew Michael Brown, the 18-year-old killed last Saturday, but some have known the police officer involved in his death. “The Ferguson people I have talked to are hopeful, saddened, outraged, defensive, engaged, scared, prayerful and deeply committed to getting through this difficult time together,” he wrote in an update letter to friends and family in the Episcopal community.

A pastor building bridges between police and community:

In the aftermath of the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, St. Louis faith leaders are hoping to lead the charge in de-escalating racial tensions and rebuilding trust in Ferguson. One major step toward that goal will take place Tuesday night, when the Rev. Traci D. Blackmon will host a forum at Christ the King United Church of Christ. Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson and Mayor James Knowles III are expected to both be on hand to answer questions. The forum is scheduled to take place at 7 p.m.

Alan Rudnick

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Alan Rudnick has been featured on television, radio, print, and social media and serves as the Pastor of the First Baptist Church of Ballston Spa, NY. He has quickly established himself as a leader, blogger, and commentator in the areas of faith, Christianity, ministry, and social media. He is the author of, “The Work of the Associate Pastor”, Judson Press. Alan’s writing has been featured with the Albany Times Union, The Christian Century, Associated Baptist Press, and The Fund of Theological Education. http://alanrudnick.org

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  • Jonathan Waits

    Alan, what a great series of anecdotes about some of the pastors trying to make a difference and stand for peace in the midst of a situation that is still spiraling out of control. It is sad that so many have decided that the best way to respond to this tragic situation is by hurting other people, perpetuating the cycle of violence. Prayerfully these brave folks can take up Martin Luther King, Jr.’s lost mantle and offer some real leadership in Ferguson. Allow me, though, to offer a note of caution: Don’t join yourself in the rush to judgment that is fueling the violence and confusion. You describe Michael Brown as murdered by the Ferguson police officer. Perhaps this was only a bit of careless language on your part. The fact is that the facts aren’t all in and we still as of yet don’t actually know what happened that awful night. Maybe it was murder, maybe it was a terrible mistake, maybe it was a justified act of self defense. The point is: we don’t know. Murder is a loaded word in this setting that provides ammunition for the folks among whom the brave pastors you mention are trying to bring calm. Let us pray and urge for real justice and not the pre-judged, politicized justice that has helped fuel the downward spiral. Thanks, however, all the same for these stories