This morning I decided to visit one of the African Methodist Episcopal congregations in Fort Wayne. I am in between churches right now, so I have been able to visit some other denominational churches the last few Sundays. I enjoy visiting other churches, seeing and experiencing how God’s people worship in other denominations. Last Sunday afternoon I thought, “Why didn’t I worship with an AME congregation?” I immediately decided that I would worship in an AME church the next Sunday.
As I walked into Fort Wayne’s oldest African American church, I was immediately welcomed by a few parishioners. “Welcome, glad you’re here,” they said. “Hungry? We have breakfast around the corner.” The kind members invited me to join them for breakfast. I decided just to have a cup of coffee. There was an older women sitting in a pew, so I decided to strike up a conversation with her. After we exchanged names, she shared that this has been her church for over 50 years. It’s her home church, she said.
I picked up a bulletin and sat down waiting for the 10:30am service. I was welcomed by many friendly faces as I waited for worship. The music began, the praises were coming, and people continued to gather in Jesus’ name. The music was soulful. The drummer was a little guy, who had to be no more than 7 or 8 years old, but he was doing great. We prayed for the Charleston, SC community after the tragedy in the Emanuel AME Church and dreamed of racial reconciliation in our nation.
The preacher was a guest this morning. He was compelled to visit the prior week after the Charleston shooting. He spoke on racial reconciliation, white privilege, and sharing our stories with one another. He was also Caucasian. The pastor invited him to speak, so the congregation could hear his story. He invited us all to listen to each other’s stories, especially the stories of our brothers and sisters who have a history in bondage and oppression.
As I reflect on the last several weeks, I am reminded of my own white privilege. I am reminded of how our nation is still bent toward the sin of racism. I also repent of the ways in which I am a part of that culture. In the midst of this reality where black churches are still burnt, African Americans are still profiled, where the Confederate flag is still defended, and where 9 brothers and sisters in Christ can be killed in their own Bible study, I walked into this all African American congregation and was welcomed and loved as a child of God.
The spirit of the African Methodist Episcopal Church is one of love in the midst of adversity and challenges. It is the responsibility of the Body of Christ around our nation to not just pray about racial reconciliation, but walk through the door of African American churches, pray together, praise together, and listen to the stories of our brothers and sisters. It’s not enough to simply call for the taking down of a flag, but the church must now be the people living out reconciliation in our nation.
I am thankful for the witness of the African Methodist Episcopal Church and the ways they have taught and continue to teach our nation grace, love, and forgiveness.