Shooting in the AME Church

The shooting in South Carolina last night . . .

No doubt that anyone who has heard the tragic news story from Charleston is feeling a lot of emotions. At West UMC, we are in the beginning weeks of a message series on “emotions.”
The series is called “Sweet Emotions” but the emotions we feel as we watch the news today are anything BUT sweet.

Now is the time for us to use our “unhappy” emotions of anger, disgust, fear, and sadness for good.

Perhaps these are some of the thoughts that might cross our minds as we hear the news story . . .

“I’m so angry! I’m angry at why humanity would choose to act out of his/her own anger and hate and take the lives of innocent people. And it happened in church? How could one act out of such hate to take the lives of people gathered together for the purpose of being a community of faith?”

“The story is disgusting . . .
Disgust because how could something like this happen, period? Can’t God intervene to save the lives of the people there? Isn’t God “all powerful” and “always present”?”

“If God lets things like this happen, then I don’t want to believe in God.”


As United Methodists, we embrace the theological concept of free will. That humanity was created with choice and we each live out our own choices. We live out our own beliefs of what is good and what is wrong/evil. Our thoughts and feelings determine our behaviors/choice. We are not puppets on a string, so therefore this is not something we can blame on God.

This story causes fear. Fear in regard to what if this happens again?

“What if this were to happen to people I love? What if it were my family? My church? What if others respond out of their fear and thus we perpetuate the hate?”

And finally, ultimately, there is sadness.
Sadness because of the loss of life. Sadness at the loss of innocence for those in the community, much less the survivors of the experience.

Sadness that people were gathered together, minding their own business and communing with one another and God, and as a result of being at an unfortunate place at the wrong time, they are dead.

sat yesterday in Stuart Auditorium all day  as we tried ballot after ballot to elect delegates to General Conference! Some phenomenal leaders (in my opinion) were elected early on to go make a difference and try to change the world. We still are voting . . . hopefully God will continue to work and we will listen. Maybe this can be a step forward in changing our world, especially one that is often times gripped by anger, fear, disgust, and hate.

As I have prayed and pondered about the events of yesterday and then heard the news this morning, it made me stop and take pause.

I heard that the little five -year old boy in the church last night played dead so that he would not be shot.

Thanks be to God that he was able to step back from his certain intense emotion of fear and THINK how to act so that he would not be killed.

His actions were perfect in his situation. And now, what could happen if we would take his actiosn and learn from them? But learn by reacting in the exact opposite manner?

He played dead so that he would live?

What if we quit playing dead as followers of a Living Love/God, and acted out of Love in all things, times, places, and ways?

How could our feelings and thoughts drive our behaviors?

How could we make this world change?


Someone wrote me this morning they were praying for those impacted by the shooting in Charleston and they were also praying for my leadership and our church.

All action and all change could begin with resounding power and impact . . . perhaps if we all did just that. Pray.