After the killings in Charleston

The grief and horror Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church must now be facing is hard to get my head around, but the killings are not themselves inconceivable.

Brother Roger, Oscar Romero, and the “troublesome priest” Thomas Becket were each murdered in worship. When I was in seminary (and just after) there was a spate of church killings. And we can’t forget the shootings at a Unitarian Universalist church in Tennessee, with one fatality two fatalities. Each one was a bit different, all devastating. I remembered not feeling personally safe when alone at church in my last pastorate. But Emanuel lost four ministers, including the senior pastor…

Churches are supposed to be welcoming and outward-facing, but that feeling makes them vulnerable, sometimes to malicious people, sometimes to predators, sometimes to the violent and murderous. It’s a tough balance between mission and safety. For nine people to die… I’ll just have to leave it there for the moment.

What then can we do? First, this is assumes there can do. I’m avoiding online commentaries that suggests that these murders can be addressed by study, or progressive action or better ideas. And I’m double-avoiding any notion that adds a burden to that church, Charleston or the increasingly beleaguered African American community. If you can’t help, take a pass. Words are nice, but contact is better and (since a casserole is impractical) a gift of money is better still. It adds heft to those nice ideas. Lots of gifts big and small reminds us — us Southerners particularly — of the outpouring of gifts to The Temple in Atlanta when it was bombed. (That was a plot point in the film Driving Miss Daisy, in case it sounds familiar.) Gifts of money will cover costs the church will have. Maybe help the survivors. But that’s for the church to decide; I have faith in them.

I got a little, unexpected windfall today. I thought it right to tithe it to Emanuel AME. You can give at their church website; it’s easy to do so.

If you don’t have the money to spare, that’s fine, too. But if all you have are ideas that make things harder, just keep them to yourself.

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Scott Wells

Scott Wells, 46, is a Universalist Christian minister doing Universalist theology and church administration hacks in Washington, D.C.

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