Burning churches — Thoughts about Exodus 3

In two weeks seven churches
the worshiping places of
black Americans
have burned.
It was almost news
but then the incidents
were found to be unrelated.

After all only three of them
are certainly hate crimes.
The others are
non-trending lightning strikes
or faulty wiring.

Only arson is news,
not the ashes of hymnbooks,
not the char of pews
where grandmas once sat to rock
some nervous newcomer’s
little baby,
where some Sunday sermon
sparks hope or lulls snooze
before the choir
wakes things up.

So I hunt for fire in scripture
and there it is – good fire
that bakes bread, warms the weary,
stands as a metaphor
for how the Spirit comes,

and fire bad as a battle flag,
or a furnace of intolerance
fueled every era
by the Nebuchad-powerful,
or the not-God Elijah noticed
along with earthquakes
and hurricanes.

Then I find a story –
about how God came upon a bush
on fire in the desert –
and God spoke to Moses–

Watch this,
watch it with your shoes off,
watch it knowing
I always see
the sorrows of my children.

And remember this –
whenever you see the burning
of some holy ground.
remember
this bush, this faith,
this community
can never be consumed.

Wishing grace upon these churches:
College Hills Seventh Day Adventist Church, Knoxville, Tennessee
God’s Power Church of Christ, Macon, Georgia
Briar Creek Baptist Church in Charlotte, North Carolina
Mount Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church, Greeleyville, South Carolina
Glover Grove Missionary Baptist Church, Warrenville, South Carolina
The Greater Miracle Apostolic Holiness Church in Tallahassee, Florida
Fruitland Presbyterian Church in Gibson County, Tennessee
College Heights Baptist Church in Elyria, Ohio is not a predominantly African American church, but its people, too, have suffered

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2 Responses to Burning churches — Thoughts about Exodus 3

  1. A beautiful prayer, and a psalmic blessing for these churches. I am so glad you have named them. I do, though, have the sense that the media has done all it can, and in some compassion, by reporting these fires and following up on the investigations. They have let us know, and have let the arsonists know they are watching. Now it is left to another writer, a modern historian, to dig out the truth behind the arson fires, and to find if the others really were lightning strikes, and also to tell us how many churches burned in the weeks before the Mother Emanuel shootings. One sad truth about American churches is that, without the government support other countries enjoy, many, perhaps most, of them, are in bad shape, dangerous shape, and are accidents waiting to happen. And the churches of the poor, most of all. But the fear these seven fires have spread among already badly frightened people is a fire itself. The burning is not over yet, I fear.
    Thanks for naming the churches –

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