What happens when a white preacher girl walks into a Black church? It sounds like the beginning of a bad joke. What happened when this white preacher girl walked into the late Trayvon Martin’s church in Sanford, Florida? What happened the day after the not guilty verdict came out of George Zimmerman’s trial?
It happened to be a Sunday, the Sabbath day, a day for going to church (as is my custom). Yet this Sunday was different. It needed redeeming,nbn my neighborhood without fear, needed redeeming.
I needed to be with God and God’s people. I needed to be with Trayvon Martin’s people. I googled “Trayvon Martin,” “Sanford,” and “Church,” and was led to Rev. Valerie Houston and her church, Allen Chapel AME (African Methodist Episcopal). It was a 45 minute drive from my house.
My son was born in Sanford four years ago. In 2012, when George Zimmerman shot Trayvon in the heart…my heart stopped for a moment. Forever my son’s birthplace would be associated with the insanity of this tragedy. Now like me, whenever I mentioned my birthplace of Whittier, CA (Nixon’s hometown) he too, would get eye rolls and the reminder of aborted justice.
The day after the verdict, I felt God leading me to worship in Sanford because I knew that God was not finished yet. The trial may be over, but God’s work for justice in our country is far from over.
That Lord’s day I walked with fear and trembling up the steep steps to the church doors. I knew I was approaching God’s dwelling place. I found Rev. Houston and with a smile, let her know I was praying for her today, and expressed my gratitude for her leadership in the community. Returning my smile, she invited me to sit with her up by the pulpit, saying that I was to read scripture and preach.
My heart filled with holy terror and my legs felt weak. Who am I to speak at such a time as this? What could I possibly have to say?
As worship unfolded, the children’s choir sang, the youth danced and testified, it became clear to me that God’s Spirit filled the church and all its people with a radical power to transform righteous anger into justice, fear into hope, and sorrow into joy.
Many of us spoke of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King that day in church, recalling his mighty work and witness for equality and justice. Rev. Houston channeled him from the pulpit, twisting and contorting her body as the Spirit made her prophetic words soar across America.
A white preacher girl walks into a Black church and God is there, like God has always been, with the people who suffer from injustice, oppression, and abuse by the authorities. And this same God urgently calls upon all of us, especially those with white privilege, to listen and hear the cries of God’s people, “How long, how long must we wait for justice to roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream?”