The other night (June 24th) I joined many other believers (several hundred) at Marion Square for a Prayer Vigil for the families of the Mother Emmanuel Nine, for our city, state & nation.
It was a sweet and powerful event filled with strong, Gospel words from Philip Pinckney, a relative of Clementa Pinckney, a Citadel grad and a young minister, along with joyful singing and uplifting prayers. People of every race and background (many not Christians) were gathered, and the entire atmosphere was filled with encouragement and love.
Around 9:00 pm, we began to make our way towards Mother Emmanuel AME, the police having blocked the streets for us, and God, unbeknownst to me, was about to shift the focus, with this simple minister right in the middle.
Pastors were leading the way, while everyone was singing, and we merged with the multi-colored host already at the church. The next moment I and several others were in front of Emmanuel facing the crowd, when the young man leading us in song says, “Now, a few people are going to say some things.”
Not knowing that I was on God’s agenda, I began to pray, “Do I have something to say, if so, what?” Then I heard that still, small voice, “Repent of your racism.” I waited, wrestled and prayed.
They called the brother to my left, who exhorted the crowd, calling all to embrace the “sound of heaven coming down.” They called the guy to my right, who proclaimed a grace filled word of the Kingdom. While he was speaking, his wife leaned over and said, “You’re next.” Then there I was standing alone before the throng, “from every language tribe and tongue.”
To the best of my recollection, these were my words…
“I am a son of this city, and I grew up insulated and ignorant. I went to a segregated church and didn’t know a black classmate until the 6th grade.
I didn’t know what racism was, or that I was a racist, but I stand before you now (speaking especially to my black brothers and sisters), repenting and asking your forgiveness, for I have come to know that all races are equally precious in the Kingdom of God.
This is a critical, historic hour in our city and our nation; I believe it may be the African American moment, for you hold the key.
Underneath the pain, hurt, and injustices, we need your gift of forgiveness. Repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation are the only way forward towards a true awakening and move of God, and you are the key.
I do not want to be your white brother; I do not want you to be my black brother or sister. I desire to simply be your brother.
I stand here now, first for myself, but may it also be for my white brothers and sisters, repenting of my sin.
Will you forgive me?”
When I stopped there was a moment of silence, then a dear sister in Christ (I must say black for this telling) ran up and embraced me with the words, “I forgive you!” This was followed by one after another, and cheers, and shouts, “We forgive you!”
While this may have been the beginning of a new day for me and God’s people, and surely one small step among many, I had never felt more clean and whole in all my life.