Tag Archive: Charleston


It was the smallest of deals, it was quite possibly the biggest of deals.

This morning i’d been asked to share a little about church at a house church meeting of a friend of mine – never met the group before and only knew the leader through a camp i spoke on last year for his youth.

But i’d also spent the last few days feeling very challenged by the tragic events in Charleston and using my social media avenues to share a number of powerful thoughts i had read and to challenge leaders of churches across Americaland to PLEASE give the incident some focus in their meetings.

As i prepared to lead a meeting of my own i thought it would be very hypocritical if i didn’t do the same and so in a middle to wealthy group of white home church goers i invited them to close their eyes while we took a few minutes to remember the people on this list of nine names. People who we hadn’t known personally, but as members of the body of Christ, their loss was our loss and the pain of their family members and friends needed to be our pain as well:

Cynthia Hurd [54]

Tywanza Sanders [26]

Sharonda Singleton [45]

Myra Thompson [59]

Ethel Lance [70]

Susie Jackson [87]

DePayne Doctor [49]

Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr [74]

Rev. Clementa Pinckney [41]

i read out the ages as well cos that felt strangely significant to me – i had read that it was a prayer meeting and it was no surprise to me that the majority of members there were older folks as around the world, they seem to be the ones to fill up our corporate times of prayer in the most faithful of ways.

We took a moment to remember the incident as an isolated moment of tragedy. Then we took a moment to remember the incident as just one in a much bigger question and ongoing story that feels like one of the most important things Americaland needs to be facing right now. We prayed that the white church leaders of Americaland would realise how important it was for them to be part of this mourning, conversation and journey, both now and into the future. That black voices won’t feel alone and isolated and abandoned once more, as if this is simply their thing they need to face.

We invited power and love and strength and grace and healing. We were still.

It was not a big deal. But it felt significant. It felt necessary. It felt important. And perhaps it was the biggest deal of every part of our gathering this morning.

Were you part of a group or gathering that gave Charleston any mention or focus today? i would LOVE to hear about it in the comments.


[For some helpful thoughts & pictures on Charleston from other people with wise voices, click here]


i just read a really helpful piece by Brene Brown titled, ‘Own our History. Change the story’ which is focused on Americaland which has what feels like a completely different story, when it comes to present race issues, in many ways, but also some remarkably similar overlaps.

Owning our stories is standing in our truth. It’s transformative in our personal and professional lives AND it’s also critical in our community lives. But we don’t think about history as our collective story.

Until we find a way to own our collective stories around racism in this country, our history and the stories of pain will own us.

Brene is writing into the story of Americaland and yet replace ‘US’ with ‘South Africa’ and so much of this still rings absolutely true:

Our collective stories of race in the US are not easy to own. They are stories of slavery, violence, and systemic dehumanization. We will have to choose courage over comfort. We will have to feel our way through the shame and sorrow. We will have to listen. We will have challenge our resistance and our defensiveness.

We have to keep listening even when we want to scream, “I’m not that way. This isn’t my fault!”

We have to examine and own stereotypes and prejudices. Every single one of us has them. It will be tough.

We will need to sit down with our children and talk about privilege. This means honest conversations about how we were raised and what we need to work on. No blaming or shaming, but truth. It’s not productive to deny how hard we all work for what we have, but it’s not honest to deny that many of us are afforded privileges based on who we are and what we look like.

Osheta Moore, a woman of colour in Americaland who i deeply respect had this amazing post to write after the tragic events of the Charleston shooting that occurred this past week. Some advice she gave to Americans which could be well extended to white South Africans, as we try to make sense of the violence and deep-seated hatred and racism that is prevalent across the nation, even 20 plus years after our first officially free and fair elections:

Today, I offer two responses that promote peace, lay a foundation for unity, and point to the love of Jesus as displayed on the cross.

I’m sorry.


I’m listening.

I’m sorry because we’re called to be peacemakers.  We are the ones on the front-line of violence with the sword of the Spirit- his words that bring life.

We’re called to be the ones to cry out, “Immeasurable worth!” when image-bearers are devalued.

We’re the voices of justice.

We’re the ones who draw in the sand and level the playing field.

As peacemakers, we’re tasked with identifying with our Prince of Peace who overcame our blood-thirsty enemy by shedding his own blood- selflessness and love flows from the cross and lies out our chosen path- humility.  “I’m sorry” tames the anger.  “I’m sorry” respects the pain. “I’m sorry”positions you as a friend and not adversary.

I’m listening because we’re called to be reconcilers.  Like Jesus reconciled us to the Father- it’s a painful process.  A denying process.  A humiliating process.  But a Kingdom process, nonetheless.  “I’m listening” says, “yes, I have an opinion and yes I have strong feelings, and yes this makes me feel more than a little helpless, but I’m going to press into this specific pain and listen.”

We need to own our history, and the fact that we are still very much walking through muddied waters that are filled with consequence, privilege, hurt, abandonment and more.

We need to very much be able to say, “I’m sorry” – not necessarily that ‘i did that thing’ but definitely that ‘i benefitted from that thing having been done’ and ‘i see how that thing being done has left a deep legacy of hurt for you and your family’. 

We need to listen and really hear the hurt and the stories, the needs and the desires and dreams – rather than assuming or presuming that we know or could ever understand living as a person of different colour or culture or story, we need to simply close out mouths and start to listen more, create more spaces for others to share their stories and experience so that we can begin to have a bit more of an understanding and start finding better ways of moving forwards together.

i know and i recognise more and more that i personally still have a long way to go and it is important for me to catch the racism and race-mindedness and prejudice in my own life.

i need to have more occasions of recognising and celebrating the diversity of the different people of my country and creating opportunities to engage more deeply and profoundly with others who are not like me.

i need to be braver in calling out racism where i see it and refusing to let friends and family especially [but also strangers where it feels safe to do so] get away with being subtly racist or prejudiced in what they say out loud. It is okay to say, “That is not okay!” in love but firmness.

And so much more. But let’s continue to step towards this. As we stop to listen and own up to our stories and grieve with those who are suffering or who have suffered, and as we seize opportunities to build deeper friendships with people who are not like us, so we will move closer towards being a country of true diversity and the “Us vs. Them” will be transformed into “Us and Them” and then hopefully disappear completely into a beautifully mosaiced and kaleidoscoped ‘Us’.


[For more thoughts and conversations around a better South Africa, click here]

We are angry. We grieve, mourn, weep. But we also choose to remember these dear sisters and brothers. Rest in peace.

Cynthia Hurd [54]

Tywanza Sanders [26]

Sharonda Singleton [45]

Myra Thompson [59]

Ethel Lance [70]

Susie Jackson [87]

DePayne Doctor [49]

Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr [74]

Rev. Clementa Pinckney [41]

[From Eugene Cho, who is a man i greatly respect and admire:  @EugeneCho]

i think it is strongly significant to start a conversation about the tragedy that happened when a young white guy [who shall remain nameless] walked into a black church in Charleston, South Carolina and shot and killed 9 of its members who were busy having a time of prayer. i don’t know any of those people, but taking a moment to recognise their humanness and the loss of their lives and taking a moment to think of their families and friends as well as the wider black community is an important thing to do.

We lament with America as America laments. And hope that once more it is not simply black America lamenting, but that all of us who are here right now are taking a moment to grieve and to consider the much wider implications of this moment.

i don’t believe my words are going to be of any use or carry any legitimacy here and so instead of sharing my own thoughts, i want to direct you towards some of the many helpful and truth-bearing posts that have been written to try and help Americans process yet another needless act of terrorism [for how can be described as anything less than an act of pure terror?] – there are many more, but these are some that i came across, and while i share snippets which carry the heart of the message that resonated with me, please make some time to go and read the full piece…

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What I need you to say in response to the shooting in Charleston by Osheta Moore

These are the critical hours that sets the trajectory of this new conversation on racism in America.   These are also the hours our helplessness rises to the surface and we’ll use our words to alleviate it.  

As a white person, you may have heard Dr. King’s “I have a dream” speech and thought, “yes, that’s a nice sentiment.” That “nice sentiment” is a defining dream for the African- American community.  We don’t want to be angry anymore.  We’re tired of being afraid.  We’re tired of these headlines.  We want to have peace.  We believe, we dream of unity too.

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After Charleston: An open letter to white christians from a white female pastor, Liz Verhage, shared by Eugene Cho on his blog

I am grieving and lamenting and beyond angry over what feels like open season on the Black Community/Church right now in the United States.

White Christians, this is the time to pay attention and be part of our nation’s struggle to understand and address the continual violence happening against our black sisters and brothers. When one part of the Body hurts we all hurt – when one part of the Body is repeatedly targeted, killed, not protected, pulled out of swimming pools, seen as threats when unarmed – and then misrepresented, silenced, or made small through ahistoric excuses, side-stepping through political mess, or any other form of evil – we need to stand up. We need to show up – loudly. We need to demand a different response – and start with our people in the church.

Ask about this reality of race and death at your church – where will it be addressed within worship this Sunday?

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The Only Logical Conclusion by Austin Channing Brown

Within just a few minutes new reports started pouring in that the suspected shooter had been captured. As various officials were interviewed there was a resounding theme. “Safety has been restored.”

“Our community can now come together.”

“Now the healing process can begin.”

“The threat is now over.”

Though I understand what these officials meant. I want to say that safety has not been restored. I am glad the suspect is in custody. I really am. I am glad for the country, but I am mostly glad for the community of Charleston and anyone that was afraid their home, church, community center or neighborhood might be another target. But my gratefulness does not extend far enough to create any sense of safety. For the next few weeks, maybe even months, black churchgoers will not feel safe because we know the threat is not over.

Though the weapon is the same, gun violence, this is different because the driving force was white supremacy, this act the epitome of racism, the goal to kill black people. The level of terror that black people feel in America at this moment cannot be underestimated. Because when the driving force of such a massacre is the very thing imbedded in the roots of America, thriving on the branches of generation after generation, sitting in the pews unchallenged every Sunday morning in white churches- there is no reason why black Americans should feel safe.

Every time I write about race, someone white says “just know it isn’t all of us,” believing this will bring me comfort. It is offered as balm, but fails miserably. I would much rather people say, “I see this sin in my own heart, my own life, my own church and I am working to uproot it. I don’t want to be this way, and I will do the work to submit this ugliness before Christ.” That’s what I want to hear. Creating distance from it doesn’t serve me, doesn’t bring me comfort. Because it is in all of us. White supremacy has infected all of us who know America. If I have to deal with the white supremacist notions within myself, than I don’t want to hear about how “its not all of us”. It is. It is all of us who must learn to love blackness as an equal and authentic image of God.

I wrote on twitter that every church in America should be talking about this shooting on Sunday. But you know what? My real fear isn’t that churches will ignore the shooting. My fear is that churches will underestimate it. I fear that it will alter one Sunday’s plans and nothing else. I fear that the words will be reduced to one lone shooter, to one silent moment, to one prayer. I fear that it will change nothing about every Sunday thereafter, that it will inspire nothing of lasting significance, that no one will make a declaration to kick racism out of the pews. My real fear is that this moment will slip by just as so many others have, that white churches will refuse to see their own reflection. Or that they will and simply turn away.

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Mark Charles, who is a Navajo man i greatly respect had these words to say which i feel go way beyond this incident and address the conversation as a whole. A lot of which relates to us back in South Africa and some of the conversations we are still needing to have:

I lament that our nation continues to celebrate its racist foundations with holidays like Columbus Day, sports mascots like the Washington Redsk*ns and the putting of faces like Andrew Jackson on our currency.

I lament the words of our political candidates who promise to lead America back to its former “greatness”, ignorant of the fact that much of America’s “greatness” was built on the exploitation and dehumanization of its people of color.

I lament that today the dominant culture in America is in shock because in the city of Charleston South Carolina one individual committed a single evil and heinous act of violence, while minority communities throughout the country are bracing themselves because the horrors of the past 500 years are continuing into their lifetime.

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i was also deeply moved by Jon Stewart’s opening monologue on The Today Show where he dropped the jokes and spoke from his heart some agonisingly truthful thoughts:

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Even, and maybe especially, to the language and the imagery that the media uses to give completely biased and racist renderings of different events that happen, painting them with different brushes to pursue an agenda:


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White people in Americaland. Let’s begin with what Osheta suggested:

 I’m sorry. I’m listening.

And then let’s show up at this conversation and be prepared to own what we have inherited in various forms and systems and places. And let’s be prepared to get our hands dirty. And to become uncomfortable. And for this to get a little [more] messy, but for us.

Charleston 9 – we remember you…

[For an example of how we remembered Charleston, click here]

[For a variety of other conversations relating to race and privilege, click here]

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