An emotional congregation gathered Sunday morning at Mount Carmel Baptist Church. Pastor Casey Kimbrough surveyed the gathering from the pulpit and took a couple of deep breaths.
“I can feel the anxiety and uncertainty here,” he said. “As a community, we feel the impact of everything that happened last week very strongly.”
Kimbrough was referring to the shooting of two black men, Alton Sterling in Louisiana and Philando Castile in Minnesota, and the killing of five police officers in Dallas.
“Like churches all across America this morning, we stand here to pray for the families who lost their loved ones,” he said. “Their lives are forever marked by what happened last week.
“And yet, we cannot allow violence to divide us,” he said as congregants, some with tears in their eyes, reacted with loud “amens.”
“We need to work together to produce unity and wholeness in the presence of God, no matter how much melanin is in our skin.”
The call for unity seemed to be a common theme across Charlotte churches Sunday morning. Observer reporters were present at some of the worship services.
Facing giant issues
Pastor Steven Furtick referred to the Bible scripture about David and Goliath.
The Elevation Church leader said David almost never fought Goliath.
Furtick spoke to his diverse congregation about David’s triumph, and why, if the rights steps are not taken, great things cannot be accomplished.
“Goliath wasn’t a personal issue for David, it was a national issue. Keeping a whole nation locked in the strangle of fear,” he said.
David was a symbol for the nation. Goliath was the societal issues, like systemic racism and the dangers police officers face every day, Furtick said.
He said David would have never fought Goliath without doing smaller acts, like delivering cheese and bread to his brothers before the battle. Failure to do these small acts, Furtick said, can keep people from ever reaching the fight.
It is spreading love that will lead society toward fighting the real issues, Furtick said.
This week, Elevation Church is kicking off its annual Love Week, which seeks to bring people together and help address many of the needs facing Charlotte.
The church will be working with the homeless and low-income communities by providing food, clothing and doing neighborhood beautification projects.
“When the people of God do what we can, with the power we have, Goliath must fall,” he said.
Seek justice, not revenge
The street around First Baptist Church-West was a shell of what it had been -- felled trees, splintered branches, small shards of wood.
A storm Friday night had ravaged the neighborhood around the old brick church, but equally devastated were the congregants inside. Last week’s shootings were fresh in the memory of The Rev. Ricky Woods and his fellow churchgoers.
The pastor urged his congregation to seek justice, not revenge.
Justice should be the goal, he said, but the shock and sorrow of last week still lingered.
“What is a person of faith supposed to say in this moment?” Rev. Woods asked. “What can they say?
“If you get nothing else I say today, leave this place searching for justice, not punishment.”