Racism often can seem distant, safely tucked away in headlines and TV footage, away from our front doors. But the members of St. Paul Tabernacle Baptist Church in the Bayview know how close it is.
Vandals entered St. Paul in August 2015, spray-painting racist and other graffiti in the sanctuary of the black congregation, pouring bleach on each and every pew, shattering mirrors and ransacking Bishop Greg Valentine’s office.
This wasn’t vandalism; it was hate, wretched, unabated and local.
So when Seventh Avenue Church a few weeks later sought its Peace & Global Witness offering — meant to promote the peace and healing of Christ by addressing injustice worldwide — St. Paul church was a logical recipient.
The Peace & Global Witness offering allows local congregations to keep 25 percent of what is raised to promote peace and healing in our community. We are receiving this year’s offering on World Communion Sunday October 2nd as well as October 9th and 16th.
It is easy to write a check for these gifts and forget where it’s going or what kind of impact it has made. The leaders of St. Paul haven’t forgotten; the offering made a difference. And when it came time for St. Paul to celebrate the church’s 24th anniversary this September, its members reached out to Seventh Avenue Church to attend the celebration.
When I arrived to the church on Oakdale Avenue, it was tough to believe the church had been the victim of a hate crime. The fixing and patching of the physical wounds to the church building were done and the love of God and for each other was overflowing.
After all, as one speaker said early in the service, God is in the blessings business. It was a simple, meaningful message in a powerful service, and when the church called me to the front to accept a plaque on behalf of the Mission Team and Seventh Avenue Church, I was humbled, moved and blessed.
I forgave the attackers, I told the congregation, in part because forgiveness, as Pastor Jeff had said that morning, is an act of God. But I also forgave the vandals, because their ignorance was turned inside-out; It had become a gift beyond money.
The attack has given St. Paul and Seventh Avenue churches an opportunity to move beyond the headlines to find peace, continue healing and, I hope, close the distance between us.
This is the love that God gives to us without question to give freely to others.
on behalf of the SAPC Council and Mission Team