A White Preacher Girl Walks into a Black Church

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?”

Published by Sarah Griffith Lund

Leader, preacher and author of *Blessed are the Crazy: Breaking the Silence About Mental Illness, Church and Family*

9 thoughts on “A White Preacher Girl Walks into a Black Church

  1. While I disagree that the injustice was in the verdict (the jury could only decide based on what was provided to them at trial), the prosecution seemed to put on a poor attempt at presenting all the facts. I would have loved to be present with you in church that morning. My heart and prayers go out to both families at this point, and neither family’s lives will ever be the same. We can be sure that final justice is yet to come. God is still on the Throne. Hallelujah!

      1. Amen!

        Sent from my Verizon Wireless 4G LTE DROID

        Sarah Griffith Lund wrote:

        > a:hover { color: red; } a { text-decoration: none; color: #0088cc; } a.primaryactionlink:link, a.primaryactionlink:visited { background-color: #2585B2; color: #fff; } a.primaryactionlink:hover, a.primaryactionlink:active { background-color: #11729E !important; color: #fff !important; } /* @media only screen and (max-device-width: 480px) { .post { min-width: 700px !important; } } */ WordPress.com Sarah Griffith Lund commented: “I imagine a world where Sunday morning is the least segregated hour of the week.”

  2. How beautiful is covenant! Thank you Sarah, for knowing where you needed to worship, for walking the steep steps, for introducing yourself to Valerie, for reading the scripture, for preaching, for choosing to tell us in this way, for being you. I am blessed to know you and to be in covenant with you in the United Church of Christ. Shared your letter on the St. Andrew facebook page. Sunday next we may talk of Mary (of Martha/Mary fame) as being a revolutionary . . . might talk of you as a woman from today who went where she wasn’t supposed/expected to be. A contemporary revolutionary. How beautiful is covenant!

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