After weeks of protests over grand jury decisions not to indict white police officers in the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown, churchgoers across America will be dressing in black this Sunday to affirm that “black lives matter.” Ironically, this demonstration is taking place during what has frequently been referred to as the ‘most segregated hour of the week.’
Major denominations, including the Church of God in Christ, the African Methodist Episcopal Church, and the Assemblies of God, have officially stated their support for “Black Lives Matter” Sunday. The AME Zion Church, Christian Methodist Episcopal, Progressive Baptist, Black Presbyterian, Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship, and the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World are also directing their congregations to participate.
On the heels of major marches in Washington D.C. and New York City, which drew tens of thousands of demonstrators, pastors will take center stage as they call for prayer, healing, reconciliation, and justice. According to a press release issued by the AME Social Action Committee, Black Lives Matter observances will be marked by:
1. Community members and church goers wearing black.
2. Churches holding a special altar call for young men and boys where leaders whill pray for God’s covering over “their souls, their lives, their families and their destinies.”
3. People being encouraged to buy from black-owned businesses during the holiday season.
COGIC Presiding Bishop Charles E. Blake, Sr., said, “With no indictment in two national cases in less than a two week period, and to hear and see Eric Garner, a father and grandfather, placed in a banned choke hold and repeatedly say ‘I can’t breathe,’ takes us back years in the struggle for equal justice. We must find a way, through God’s help, to continue the work of emphatically telling everyone that will listen that, ‘Black Lives Matter!'”
Bishop Charles H. Ellis III, pastor of Greater Grace Temple in Detroit, will be preaching a special sermon dealing with the “Black Lives Matter” theme. Young men attending the service will also receive helpful information on improving their lives and looking to the future.
Alabama pastor, T.C. Johnson, said, “In the African American community it has always been the black church to lead the way for equality and justice…Our lives are just as valuable as any other lives and should be treated with the same kind of respect. Our country can do better.”
Bishop John Bryant, of the fourth district of the AME church, said he will lead his church in praying that “God will intervene to end the demonic pattern of killing unarmed Blacks, and that God will give us faith and courage for the facing of these days.”
Bishop George Wood, head of the Assemblies of God denomination, which is 59% white, said in a letter to AG churches, “I recognize that some of you may find my request to observe Black Lives Matter Sunday controversial because of deep disagreement over the Michael Brown and Eric Garner cases. I do not wish to be controversial or to bring further division within the Church or within America. We have enough of that already. Rather, I wish for us to find points of unity and cooperation across racial lines. We can take steps together in that direction by affirming the value of black lives and by praying for unity in our churches and our society this Sunday, December 14.”