[Several members of the Lotus House belong to the North City Church of Christ, and were involved in this event – hence the post.]

Service of Lament, Ferguson Heights Church of Christ, 31 August 2014

Service of Lament, Ferguson Heights Church of Christ, 31 August 2014

Yesterday afternoon, members from churches of Christ across St. Louis met at the Ferguson Heights meeting house in Ferguson to lament our divisions and pledge to begin a process of reconciliation and healing. Around 500 people met from at least 15 local churches; the event may have been the largest gathering of local churches in terms of congregations represented in the history of St. Louis churches of Christ. Members came from Arnold, Ferguson Heights, Florissant, First Christian of Alton, LaFayette, Maryland Heights, McKnight Crossings, Metropolitan, North City, North County, North Hills, O’Fallon, Overland, West Central, West End, and possibly others.

We spent an hour and half crying out to God with the words of David like these: “Hear, O Lord, when I cry with my voice! Have mercy also upon me, and answer me” (Ps 27). We sang mournful songs such as Farther Along and Just As I Am. We heard testimony from two elders – one black, one white – of their own experiences living in a segregated city. And we prayed, fervently, for God to intervene and bring peace within our community, our church, and our own hearts. We concluded by praising God for his faithfulness. [If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of biblical lament, I encourage you to look at “The Discipline of Lament” in Reconciling All Things by Chris Rice and Emmanuel Katangole.]

It would have been easy to sing some rousing songs about heaven, feel good about getting together, and then go back home to our separate but equal spheres of existence. Instead, we have tried to resist any resolution to the issue for the moment, choosing rather to see the “hidden wound” which divides us. Like Ezekiel on the banks of the river Chebar in Babylon, we must take time to sit silently with the people in their pain before we can speak of deliverance. Like Jesus, we have to walk the Via Dolorosa, the way of grief, before we can get to the resurrection. Yesterday’s service is just the first in what we hope will be a series of meetings which will culminate in real reconciliation between estranged brothers and sisters. But before we can truly be together, we have to repent. Repentance is costly and painful, and some will refuse it. Yet without repentance there can be no forgiveness, and without forgiveness there can be no peace. I don’t know exactly where this journey will take us, but I think a broken heart is a good place to begin.