Outside the city of Brownwood, lies a small Baptist encampment where I was spending a week as camp pastor of an RA/GA camp when the reports out of Louisiana and Minnesota came in. These were quite disturbing to me. I attempted, even from a distance, to minister in the midst of these reports by calling African American pastor friends who I knew were having to work through this in their churches and communities.
Then, Thursday night, the world I knew fell apart. Coming back from worship I began to hear the reports, out of my home city of Dallas, about the shootings and terror on the streets of downtown.
When it was all said and done, five police officers, heroes of our community, had been killed and several more had been injured while guarding the rights of mostly peaceful protesters.
In the following days the news, social media feeds, and conversations would focus on the horrible events. I saw and heard the fear, frustration, and sadness in people’s eyes. I saw the memes and posts on social media that continued to blame and cause divisiveness. Yet, in the midst of all of the pain I saw something else.
I saw a black police chief and a white mayor, both men of faith, pulling together and showing Dallas a unified front. In the middle of the chaos of that night and weekend, I saw pastors of different races pulling together to bring healing. I saw churches having joint worship services. I saw pastors and church leaders who decided that, yes, prayer was vitally important, but we must also take action. I saw a city that was taken to its knees, but was rising from the ashes a little less divided, a little more unified, and a little more loving toward each other.
Yet, it is important to note that this kind of unity did not just happen overnight between that horrendous Thursday night and Friday morning. This unity had been building for some time. Two pastors and two churches had been coming together for some time to combat, as one of them called it, the “Story of two cities,” North and South Dallas.
They had encouraged other churches to do the same by having “pulpit swaps” and service days. This was certainly not the first time this kind of unity had occurred, but these churches were attempting to move it to a new level in our city. I am convinced these kinds of partnerships between churches are the core of what is holding Dallas together in these difficult days.
Whether we like it or not, we have to admit the reality that we do have issues of race in America. The church can help the nation choose a better path, a path of unity, a path of reconciliation. We can take the words of 1 Peter 2:10 seriously when it says,
“Once we were not a people, but now we are the people of God.”
We may take the words of Jesus seriously when he says in John 20:21,
“I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.”
We are seeing glimpses of this in Dallas, and I am praying this will grow like a wildfire here and in the rest of country.
Texas Baptists Urban Missions has and is in the process of putting together Pastor Peer Groups in urban areas of Texas which can lead to working together and to unity. Please contact me if you are interested in beginning or joining a group.