Feature

The Wound of Racism

Caring for police and protestors in Ferguson, Missouri

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I never saw this coming,” said Mike Robinson, pastor of dEstiny Family Church, an Alliance congregation in St. Louis, Missouri. “It’s like flying a plane and building it at the same time.”

Since August 2014, Mike has been on the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, helping to foster peace and reconciliation after the police shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, and the ensuing unrest. Brown’s death exacerbated longstanding racial tensions between the majority-black population and the predominantly white city government and police.

Partnering with dEstiny’s sister church, Bridge of Hope—an Alliance church plant in St. Louis—and other area clergy, Mike and his congregation have been sharing Christ’s love with protestors and others caught up in the turmoil. A new ministry, Clergy United (CU), was birthed from this outreach.

“One hundred clergy members go out every night to help keep the peace,” Mike said during a phone interview last August. Checking in at a tent manned by members of dEstiny, Mike and other pastors hit the streets armed with love and truth—and the power of the gospel. At the top of every hour, the group prayed for residents and protestors through a PA system. “Our church members are here every night, giving out water [or helping in other ways],” Mike said at the time. “All of them are on board.”

Demonstrators at the site of a destroyed store react after Police Chief Thomas Jackson released the name of the officer who shot Michael Brown. (Photo by Getty Images)

From individuals and agencies across the city, CU received donations of water, juice, first-aid kits, and other supplies to assist anyone in need during the protests. Also, Bridge of Hope’s pastor, Rev. Steve Boda, has been an invaluable help. During the initial protests, Steve and Mike would walk the streets together every night. “I’m black, and he’s white,” Mike said. “So it makes quite a statement!”

Almost daily, people have received Christ. In connecting each new believer with a congregation, “we ask for [people’s] zip codes and then point them to a church in their area,” Mike said.

Clergy United took off quickly and expanded rapidly, keeping Mike and his fellow pastors constantly on the go. Since last August, the ministry has been active within the community of Ferguson as well as the Metropolitan St. Louis area, even extending into East St. Louis. As a result, “the Church here is becoming more unified—it’s divine,” Mike said. “God is using me in ways I never imagined.

“We found ourselves wearing many hats throughout the uprising in Ferguson,” Mike observed, noting that CU has provided pastoral care to protesters, residents, police officers, and even government officials. On August 25, 2014, the ministry partnered with two other groups—along with the mayor and police chief of Ferguson—to distribute 1,300 bags of groceries to residents of the Canfield, Northwinds, and Oakmont apartment communities, the area where Brown was killed. “Many were unable to leave their homes and feared going out because of all of the media attention and the high level of tension that surrounded the community,” Mike explained.

Mike believes that the prayers of CU and their ministry partners helped to change the overall climate on the streets of West Florissant, where nearly a dozen businesses were torched after a grand jury decided not to indict Darren Wilson, the officer who shot Michael Brown. Recently, Mike talked about the impact the jury’s decision had on CU’s ministry presence. “Since the verdict, we have had to make calculated decisions on when we would actually be present in the streets. On some days, despite [frigid] temperatures, we have had to stand outside in the face of police officers armed with assault rifles and teargas and driving armored vehicles. We chose to be a buffer between the police and the community. Our goal was that no one would be hurt—citizens or police. We wanted everyone to be able to go home to their families each night.”

Much of CU’s energy has focused on education within the surrounding school district. The group sponsored Martin Luther King Jr. nonviolence training for high school stu-dents and met with local gang leaders, along with Dr. Bernice King—the late civil rights leader’s daughter—in an effort to defuse plans to commit violence against police. “I personally feel drawn to creating educational programs that will help to ensure that young peo-ple understand the governmental system and appreciate this great country that we live in,” Mike said.

When asked if the situation has improved since the tumult following the grand jury verdict, Mike said, “Unfortunately, I believe things are still the same. [The shooting] has pulled back a band aid on an open wound that has never been properly cared for—the wound of racism. I believe that the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ has a major role to play in the healing and reconciliation that needs to take place throughout our country. It is time for us to speak truth to power and preach a gospel message that is not compromised.”

In the face of racial tensions, Mike and his colleagues in CU feel that there is a genuine need to demonstrate the love of Jesus and His message of hope. “dEstiny Family Church and Clergy United are small organizations, but we are determined to have a major impact within our community.”

Describing himself as a sold-out fan of The Alliance, Mike said, “I want the C&MA to have a part in this [ministry of reconciliation]. This is what Christ would do.”

5 responses to The Wound of Racism

  1. I have been a member of the Christian and Missionary Alliance for my entire life. I am proud to hace been nurtured as a beleiver in the C&MA church and beleive in it’s outreach to follow Christ’s Great Commission to go into the uttermost parts of the world soreading the Gospel of our Lord and Savior. Read the history of the C&MA and you will find that from the start we have been planting churches in all areas, cities, rural, and jungle.

  2. Is this an alliance authorized website. My eyes can’t believe!!!
    What a load of crap this article is. Unarmed black teenager?!?! You mean the thug with an extensive criminal history that almost kill a police officer?!
    What is next ?? Gay marriage is a ok ? After all your churches are empty and you need the money!
    Pathetic !

  3. This article is totally laughable and so sad. I left the C&MA to work in an urban setting. The C&MA has such a dismal history of fleeing the urban areas. Now you want to jump on the bandwagon and claim to be against racism? Shame on you!

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