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After Charlotte arson, Briar Creek church benefits from online fundraising

The charred remains of the back left wing of Briar Creek Road Baptist Church, Thursday afternoon, June 25, 2015. The church was intentionally set on fire early Wednesday morning.
The charred remains of the back left wing of Briar Creek Road Baptist Church, Thursday afternoon, June 25, 2015. The church was intentionally set on fire early Wednesday morning. dhinshaw@charlotteobserver.com

Two online fundraisers have collectively raised more than a quarter of a million dollars in donations for six predominantly black churches burned in the last month – and Briar Creek Road Baptist Church will be the first to see that money.

The east Charlotte church sustained significant damage after an intentionally set fire June 24 destroyed its education building and interfered with the church’s summer day camp, Camp “Son” Shine.

An advance on Briar Creek’s disbursement will be sent to the church for immediate assistance in the continuation of that camp, said Reverend Mike Kinman of Christ Church Cathedral in a statement.

Christ Church Cathedral, an Episcopal church in St. Louis, Missouri, started the “Rebuild the Churches Fund,” which has garnered $190,000 of its $250,000 goal for the six churches. Not all of the burnings were ruled arson.

Rhonda Kinsey, co-pastor at Briar Creek Road Baptist Church, said she didn’t know they would be receiving those funds yet.

“Oh God, thank you,” she said. “This is awesome.”

She said Camp “Son” Shine has seen a tremendous outpouring of support, and around $4,000 has already been donated to the church.

The young Muslim activists’ campaign “Respond with Love” has captured national attention with its fundraising of almost $85,000. They hope to boost that number to $100,000 by July 18.

Both campaigns far surpassed their initial fundraising goals of $25,000 and $10,000, respectively.

“This seemed like a very natural opportunity to show real solidarity,” said Linda Sarsour, executive director of the Arab American Association of New York, one of the facilitators of the “Respond with Love” campaign. “What better way to show true genuine solidarity than by saying ‘your churches matter.’”

Bren O’Connor, digital missioner of Christ Church Cathedral and an administrator for the “Rebuild the Churches Fund,” said the cathedral has taken an active role in racial reconciliation since Ferguson.

“The black church has been historically the place for community and self love and redeeming political power, and just a place of safety,” he said. “We want to stand with, to use church language, our sisters and brothers in Christ.”

Sarsour said issues of race intersect for both Muslim and African-American communities.

“It was a very personal kind of campaign for us,” she said.

The “Respond with Love” campaign coincides with Ramadan, Sarsour said, a holy month of fasting and giving. The money will either be pooled with the “Rebuild the Churches Fund” or distributed based on each churches’ need.

O’Connor said while the “Rebuild the Churches Fund” doesn’t have a set end date, they hope to have the money equally distributed to each of the churches by October.

Neither see the influx of funds from a diverse pool of donors slowing.

“There is a great rainbow coalition working on this,” O’Connor said.

Fowler: 704-358-5294

House of Worship Safety Seminar

In response to the Briar Creek Road Baptist Church fire and the Charleston shootings, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department will host a “House of Worship Safety Seminar” July 31.

Officers will address personal safety, building security and how to respond to shooters in churches, mosques and temples.

Participants can register at cmpd.org. Space is limited.

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