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Remembering El Paso and Dayton – One Week Later

It’s Monday morning, August 12, 2019. The Ecumenical Theological Seminary is celebrating the beginning of our 2019-20 Academic Year with our August Doctor of Ministry Emergent Week. We have a full room of doctoral students who have gathered on campus to continue their ministry preparation.

While I am enjoying the excitement of this moment, I continue to think about the events that occurred last week. The shootings in El Paso and Dayton have plunged the nation into a deep sense of grief once again. As families began to bury and care for loved ones who were victims of the shootings, I thought about the pastors, priests, chaplains, counselors and other religious and community leaders who were there to help families negotiate the aftermath of the evil deeds. Our prayers are also with them as they continue their sacred duty.

We will move forward with our Emergent Week activities. The cities of El Paso and Dayton have also begun to move forward. Yet, our God will continue to hear the cries from the shed blood of the innocents that continue to rise from the earth. The image of parents shielding their children from gunfire is etched in my mind and spirit. The image of a Walmart crowded with families shopping for school supplies being sprayed by automatic gunfire is an aversion to our collective sense of humanity and faith.

White supremacist and white nationalist ideologies appear to have taken center stage in these assaults on America. The common language of hate is being heard in diverse places: the halls of Congress, the Oval Office and manifestos written by racist mass murderers. The language of “send them back”, “immigrant invasion”, ___hole countries”, “make America great again” – language that is purposed to give some a sense of moral and ethnic superiority and to others a sense of exclusion, worthlessness and marginalization. What does it mean when the nation that is the leader of the free world puts immigrants in cages and separates children from parents. What does it mean when Christians are silent while children are sexually exploited by the privileged and powerful. What does a thumbs-up mean while holding an orphaned baby whose parents have just been murdered?

Our doctoral students just finished morning worship to begin their day. Some of the words from one of the songs we sang today went like this:

We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord
We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord
And we pray that one day all unity will be restored
And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love,
Yes, they’ll know we are Christians by our love

We know there will be other El Pasos and Daytons. As the Ecumenical Theological Seminary family offers prayers, condolences, blessings and love to the families and friends of those killed and wounded in these horrific events, we also will not surrender our hope that love will always overcome hate, “For God so loved the world….”

The Rev. Dr. Kenneth Harris
President and Dean
Ecumenical Theological Seminary, Detroit