We picked up the CD when we registered in the church office — tracks of upbeat Christian music they had memorized within hours. Our listening habits lean more toward Top 40, where I cross my fingers on the steering wheel that they won’t ask me what certain things mean for another few years. Each summer, though, we go through a few weeks of Christian music immersion, simply because they adore attending Vacation Bible School so much.
Our church did VBS this year for the first time. Prior to moving into our new neighborhood, the kids went to a week-long program co-hosted by our parish. Last year, our first summer in our new house, we went to VBS at the church of a friend. Each year, except maybe the first year Abbey participated, I’ve dropped the kids off with hugs and smiles and a certain comfort that comes from knowing they’re surrounded by a church community.
We’re able to walk to and from our church, though we rarely do it on Sunday mornings, when we’re on time enough to make it to mass at all. With a more relaxed summer schedule, the kids and I walked a few times. I would walk home slowly, letting the sun and the quiet wash over my shoulders, content knowing they were somewhere they enjoyed being.
Somewhere they felt safe.
I worry about our church affiliation at times, but the worry stems from ideological and doctrinal questions. The ritual of mass brings a sense of peace, and I appreciate looking around the pews and seeing faces I recognize, like, and admire from elsewhere in our community. As a feminist and a staunch supporter of marriage equality, some of the church’s official positions make me cringe.
Our church, though, and I’m speaking of the various parishes to which I’ve belonged throughout my life, has always seemed sacred, a sanctuary.
Church has always felt safe.
But not all churches are safe.
Black churches are burning, miles away but united under the same cross, and really I don’t know if it matters to me on which cross the church was founded, to what God the worshippers pray.
Black churches are burning, and it’s impossible to understand why I’m seeing more about it on Facebook and Twitter than I am on the news sites I check daily.
Flames reach to the sky, and arson might not be responsible for all of them, but isn’t even one burning church too many?
In the way one can fall down a rabbit hole of connected news articles and historical links, I started reading about the history of arson and black churches. Hate seeps through the words surrounding the explanations, the talk of attacking the heart and strength of a community.
Hate penetrating a sanctuary is frightening, but it’s more frightening to think these fires are nipping at the heels of the Charleston murders, which were nipping at the heels of stories of policy brutality. The individual acts pile together until the attacks seem relentless.
We need to do something about the hate, and we need to do something about the desensitization that makes the events blend together in the media. Mount Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church in Greelyville, South Carolina burned. 74-year-old Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr. was one of the nine victims of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston. The churches were sanctuaries for their communities, the victims had friends and family who are grieving and in pain and who are being reminded again and again that even churches aren’t safe.
My words here aren’t particularly eloquent, and they feel small and insignificant.
Staying quiet would be still smaller and less significant.
Maybe if enough people band together with small voices, we’ll figure out a way to make them louder, to speak out about race and hate and the long legacy that still ties the two together.
Maybe we can find a way to untie that legacy.