At my black church in Denver, the parking lot is packed. It’s late, 9 p.m., but tonight is no ordinary service.
The night after nine Charleston church members were slaughtered by a lone gunman, my African Methodist Episcopal church hosts a citywide prayer vigil.
The event draws in people from many faiths. Sikhs in turbans. Jews in yarmulkes. Roman Catholics in clerical collars. The mayor’s Native American aide-de-camp. Somber politicians wearing nametags and shaking hands.
I feel their heat as I enter my familiar sanctuary and unfamiliar hot air almost stops me. The church air conditioning, normally reliable, is on the blink. Even in the soaring space, the heat pulsates with the temperature of hurting people crowded together in pews.
Ushers in black suits pass out church fans. On every pew, people are waving fans at their faces, trying to coax a cool breeze. But no cool breeze tonight. It’s hot like a Southern night. Like a Selma or Charleston or Birmingham instead of Denver.
“It’s no hotter here,” the pastor says, “than what people are feeling in Charleston.” His face shows strain, pain, grief.
“I don’t know what why we’re here, except to hear from God.” Whatever you call God. However you pray to God. Whoever you believe God to be. “We need you, God, to speak to us tonight.”
He sounds desperate. Desperate for God to say something.
Then God does just that, in God’s strong still voice—whispering first through the choir, which stands to sing an unrehearsed rendition of “Total Praise,” but still sounds determined.
Yes, because next our pastor’s good friend, a young Muslim man ...1
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