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Seven Last Words of Mothers of Murdered Sons

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By Melissa Lauber

Good Friday is a time for deep contemplation as Christians reflect upon Christ’s words as he hung and died upon a cross. But this year, at Northwood-Appold UMC in Baltimore, church leaders challenged United Methodists to let the lessons of Good Friday move beyond the foot of the cross and be lived out in our lives and culture today.

The service, the Seven Last Cries of Mothers of Sons Murdered by Police Violence, was the creation of the Rev. Kevin Slayton, pastor of Northwood-Appold UMC. It featured the preaching of six pastors and Bishop LaTrelle Easterling.

“You murdered my baby!” cried Bishop Easterling, as she echoed the voice of Mary at Golgotha. It was a wail that pierced through the centuries, as the pastors brought forth prophetic remembrances from the mothers of Trayvon Martin, Freddie Gray, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and George Floyd.

Those cries continue to be heard across the nation. A Washington Post database on fatal police shootings, reports that 1,137 people have been shot and killed by the police in the past 12 months. While African Americans make up 14 percent of the population, they are killed by police at more than twice the rate of White Americans.

The mothers of those killed, the pastors pointed out, have endured pain that is inescapable, unrelenting and unequaled.

As Christians turn to their faith for understanding and comfort, and sometimes look to the violence Christ endured on the cross. The bishop cautioned that “there is nothing salvific about suffering for suffering’s sake. There is nothing redemptive in suffering for suffering’s sake.” Rather, she stressed, “Jesus came that the destructive powers of this world would be broken. That oppressive systems of domination and depravation would be destroyed. … Christ came that the world would know love, real love, unconditional love, and would be at-one-ment with their Creator.”

But the brutality continues, the bishop said. She quoted Allison Jean, the mother of Botham Jean, who was shot in Dallas in 2018 after an off-duty police officer entered his apartment by mistake and fatally shot him. “If the tears of grieving mothers don’t shake America,” she said, “then they will be the tears that break America. 

Amidst those tears, seven preachers spoke: the Revs. Wanda Duckett, superintendent of the Baltimore Metropolitan District, Michael Parker of Journey UMC, Robert A. Turner of Empowerment Temple AME, Angelic Williams of St. Luke UMC, Walter Parrish, III, of Northside Baptist Church, Jason Jordan-Griffin of Union Memorial UMC, and Rhonda Boozer-Yeary of Douglas Memorial UMC.

In their sharing, they illuminated “how Christ stopped by with intention to secure our redemption.” They spoke of how black sons matter; how we need to talk with God and take on a sense of urgency to be about the things that matter, especially offering Living Water to those crying out in thirst. They preached on creating a Gospel-inspired legacy, and on our divine obligation to do justice, even when the sun hides its face. They spoke about forgiveness, and rage, sorrow, inspiration and what it means to be truly alive 

And when they were done, they stripped the altar, and began the vigil that would carry the church to Easter morning.

But the absence of light from Good Friday still, in some ways, hangs over creation, Bishop Easterling said. “The question is not, ‘Were you there when they crucified my Lord?’ The question is, where are we as the world continues to crucify the poor, the innocent, the marginalized, the least of these?”

Anonymous Apr 2, 2024 9:54am

Yessss Pastor Angelic Williams!! St. Luke Pastor is lit

Joann lee Apr 2, 2024 10:06am

Well done I enjoyed the service and it was a blessing

Sherise Rascoe Apr 2, 2024 11:56am

My Pastor Angelic Williams of St. Luke UM Church is doing amazing things at St Luke. She engages with the community and always doing things to assist the community. She is bringing in young adults in because they hear of the great things she has done and doing .On Good Friday she preached 3 services from 12 noon to 9pm and each service was like her first one. She had so much energy and eft the pulpits on fire

Paula Johnson Apr 2, 2024 4:45pm

I really enjoyed this Good Friday Service. It was different. I brought my daughter with me. Who lost here one and only son through gun violence and it still hurts. Thanks for the words of the Lord.

Sherise Rascoe Apr 2, 2024 11:15pm

I wrote a message earlier and it never appeared. I will shorten this message by saying. Pastor Angelic Willams is what St Luke needed and GOD has blessed us with such an Amazing Woman of GOD