Tamir Rice prayer service renews UCC commitment to combat racism
Some 400 UCC members lifted voices in song and prayer this morning, June 26, at a special service in honor of Tamir Rice, the pre-teen gunned down by two Cleveland patrolmen Nov. 22, 2014, who would have turned 13 yesterday.
The service, held at the Cleveland Convention Center, also included scripture readings. Isaiah 40:4, which was often quoted by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., was read by Tyler Thomas, a member of Eastview UCC in Cleveland.
The Rice family had planned to attend the service, but sent word that due to the overwhelming nature of the weekend, they would be unable to participate; but they sent their thanks and appreciation.
General Minister and President the Rev. Geoffrey A. Black shared excerpts from the UCC’s Pastoral Letter on Racism: A New Awakening, published by the officers of the church in January 2015. “Racism remains a wound at the heart of our nation that cannot be wished away or treated carelessly,” said Black. “We are theologically and spiritually compelled to seek the elimination of racism within ourselves, in the church and in society.”
“Our calling as Jesus’ disciples . . . inspires and even compels us to be accountable and responsible in pursuit of the end of racism, however long it takes.”
As Christians, rather than asking whether we believe in God, there are two questions we should ask instead, said the Rev. J. Bennett Guess, executive minister of Local Church Ministries. Paraphrasing Rabbi Geoffrey A. Mitelman, he asked, “How can we create more love, justice and kindness in the world?” and how do we strengthen the moments of deep human connection in the world?
“We confess to the sin of racism . . . in our world” and the systemic racism in our society. We confess to “the inherent glorification of guns, and of bad evil histories in our society,” Guess said.
At the close of the service, UCC Executive Minister for Justice and Witness Ministries the Rev. M. Linda Jaramillo invited participants to move outside the hall, and sing their witness to Cleveland’s downtown police department.
“Let’s sing to the police,” said Jaramillo, as worshippers grabbed posters bearing photos of Tamir Rice. With musicians Brooke Baker and Angela Lynard leading, the crowd filed out to the patio outside the hall, clapping as they walked and singing “This Little Light of Mine.”
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