By the Rev. Walter Strawther
United Methodists throughout the South Carolina Annual Conference gathered Feb. 1 to participate in a day of prayer to end violence in Black communities.
The event was part of a larger call from a group called Black Methodists for a Better Future in response to prevailing violence.
As part of the call to prayer, Dr. Dennis Blackwell wrote, “Researchers tell us that African Americans are disproportionately impacted by gun violence. African Americans experience 18 times more gun assaults, 10 times more homicides and three times more fatal shootings than White Americans. The data indicates that on average, Black Americans are killed by guns and 110 or more experience non-fatal injuries caused by guns. In fact, in large urban centers, Black Americans account for 68 percent of the homicides. An intervention to save Black lives is needed.”
In South Carolina, there were numerous events held in person with a noon start time, as well as an online offering. In the Lowcountry, the Rev. Connie Barnes coordinated the event held at New Grace United Methodist Church, St George. In the Upstate, Dr. Sheila Elliot Hodge led the event held at Silver Hill Memorial UMC, Spartanburg. In the Pee Dee, the Rev. Amiri Hooker hosted the event held at Wesley Chapel UMC, Lake City; Hooker’s event was held in conjunction with South Carolina Black Methodists for Church Renewal. The Rev. Thessa Smith coordinated the event held at Trinity UMC, Greenwood. And in the Midlands, the Rev. Geneva Stafford organized the event at Francis Burns UMC.
This time of prayer is a call to action. It is an invitation for the church to be the church and oppose the evil of violence in whatever form it takes.
Strawther is congregational specialist for Columbia and Hartsville districts and African-American Ministry.