Fowler is the minister for the Goodwood Church of Christ in Baton Rouge, La. The congregation of about 200 sits just about three blocks away from where three officers were killed and three others were injured Sunday in what police are calling an ambush.
“No one (at Goodwood) was immediately impacted by loss of life, but many are affected by the loss of security in their community,” Fowler said.
The shooting happened while many were in Bible class Sunday morning. Alerts began to ring on phones throughout the building, leading Fowler and church leaders to make an announcement letting the congregation know what had unfolded just blocks away.
As officers searched a neighborhood adjacent to the church, Fowler says the security of the members was a top concern. The building was locked down, with someone posted at each entrance, allowing members and visitors to still enter while protecting themselves from any possible danger.
Not far away, at the South Baton Rouge Church of Christ, church leaders let members know they were monitoring the situation closely. Minister Mark Hadley says the congregation is a little over a mile from where the shooting happened, but many of the members travel through the area to get to church.
While details of what happened are still being investigated, Fowler says the community was already hurting and churches were already working to bring healing since the death of Alton Sterling earlier this month.
“I think the difficulty we face is when you speak to one tragedy, I don’t want to isolate anyone that has an equal sense of injustice,” Fowler said.
Fowler says the churches in the area are working together to bridge divides, especially those which may exist due to race.
While he says those efforts have been going on for more than a year, the recent Sterling case shows them the efforts to unify churches, brothers and sisters, in the area needs to be a priority.
“If we are going to stand, we need to stand united as an entire body,” Fowler said.
At South Baton Rouge church leaders have challenged members to not only pray but to be people of action, to get involved in their neighborhoods, their schools, their community.
The hurt from recent events has reached deep into every part of the Baton Rouge community. Fowler's hope is that Christians will be able to figure out how they can move forward together, overcoming any divide and uniting not just as a community but as the body of Christ.
Across the Dallas-Fort Worth area Sunday, in church meetings and street protests, blacks and Latinos called for tough conversations on race and policing -- conversations many feared were being eclipsed by the outpouring of concern over an ambush on officers in downtown Dallas on Thursday.
A peaceful gathering to protest the latest deaths of two black men at the hands of police officers in Baton Rouge and the St. Paul area ended in more violence Thursday night. A sniper attack in left five police officers dead, seven wounded and a nation stunned and seething by the bloodshed.
“There is a repentance that has to happen in this nation,” said Carl Sherman, a pastor and former Desoto mayor to a large crowd gathered under the vaulted Southern Hills Church of Christ.
More than a dozen law enforcement officers filled the middle pews to hear their public service praised -- and then criticized.
Blaise Mikulewicz, Dallas County Sheriff Assistant Chief Deputy, took the stage, speaking simply. “You must trust me,” he said. It’s time for all parties to cease seeing skin color, he said. “Those barriers have to come down.” When he was finished, he received a standing ovation.
About 600 persons filled the church for a vigil and meeting organized by the Dallas Area Interfaith, a network of churches and organizations that push for social justice causes. Another meeting is planned at Cedar Crest Church of Christ in south Dallas on July 21.
“Building trust is how we are going to get better policing,” said Josephine Lopez Paul, the lead organizer for Dallas Area Interfaith.
'I'm still seeking God for what to say, but he has convicted me that something must be said,' one minister proclaims.
“It will be different. Not sure what yet. My father-in-law is a police officer, and my three nephews are black. This week has hit me hard. I'm still seeking God for what to say, but he has convicted me that something must be said.” — Jeff Dunn, East Side Church of Christ, Snyder, Texas
Antwan D. Brown “This has hit me in more ways than one. I am a black American law enforcement officer, and if I remain silent about these tragedies, I do all of us an injustice. My series this month is, ‘The Healings of the Fruit of the Spirit,’ which I suppose is timely (I credit God). So I will take this time to really speak on love and how it is hard for a people to know joy and peace when they are not shown love or it is not demonstrated towards them.” — Antwan D. Brown, Barton Avenue Church of Christ, Luling, La.
“We are in Acts 4, ‘Bold Faith.’ I was going to speak more about the general ideas of that, but after this week, I am moving to talk about recognizing the marginalized and bringing them into the presence of God. … I will also be encouraging our church to begin a campaign to honor and commend the officers and public servants that have gone above and beyond the call of duty.” — Andrew Hill, Mountain Avenue Church of Christ, Tucson, Ariz.
Roger Woods“I am speaking on how faith in Christ gives us courage (planned a month ago). I was already using an MLK quote about fear knocks, faith answered ... so I will address the situation by talking about how our faith must be strong so that we are not held captive by fear.” — Roger Woods, Walled Lake Church of Christ, Michigan
“I have scrapped the planned sermon. We will talk about the lament Psalms — and yes, we will have a dialogue. I will ask how people are doing emotionally, spiritually. So it will not be a normal sermon. I understand that Southside may be unique and not everyone is welcome to have such an informal time of teaching. I agree — we do not always need a sermon.” — Randy Clay, Southside Church of Christ, Salt Lake City
“God willing, I start with a prayer for grace and mercy, as I call forward two of our African-American shepherds and also call forward two of our police officers (one white and one African-American).” — Dan Cooper
“We really need plastic totes.”
Out of the all the things Joseph Pauley could name that would help West Virginia’s flooded communities, he chose plastic totes.
“When people find things that they can salvage, they need something to put them in,” the Belle Church of Christ minister said, “the problem is…we’re trying to buy them and we can’t find them.”
Pauley is coordinating the distribution of relief effort supplies at the Elkview Church of Christ in Elkview, W.Va. When he began spreading the word that they needed totes, the Belington Church of Christ bought as many as they could find — 99 — and sent them to Elkview, nearly three hours away.
“And they’re all gone,” Pauley said of the 99 totes, “we gave the last one out (Wednesday).”
Relief efforts are pouring into West Virginia as the state, its people and its churches recover from flash floods that took 23 lives, including two children, last weekend.
Pauley said that Elkview and other churches across the state are offering not only supplies, but also emotional encouragement to flood victims.
“We’ve hugged and cried with people,” Pauley said, “We’ve had people come in and we ask them what do you need and they say ‘I don’t know.’
“We had a man come in (Wednesday). He was just so overwhelmed. His wife died two weeks ago, and (the flood) wasn’t a total loss for him, he has some people helping him, but he’s just so overwhelmed on what to do going forward that he — probably a 60-year-old man — just stood there and wept.”
The flooding from Elk River crested at 33 feet on Friday and left the central West Virginia towns of Rainelle, Richwood and Clendenin devastated.
Matthew Benefield is a minister at the North Beckley Church of Christ, 50 miles away from Rainelle. The church partnered with Churches of Christ Disaster Relief Inc. to deliver supplies to the Rainelle area.
“Rainelle and Rupert, they both got smashed,” Benefield said. “Most of the water is gone but some of the roads are gone.”
The church is driving supplies out to those who lost vehicles during the flooding and one of the volunteering men received a kiss of gratitude in return, Benefield added.
“It’s hard seeing all the hurt, but it’s nice seeing a truckload arriving every five minutes trying to help these people.”
The top item of need in Rainelle: bleach.
“They’re all wanting to clean out their houses and kill all the mold – that’s the problem,” Benefield said of citizens in the flood’s aftermath.
The 40-soul congregation offers supplies from the church building and is taking also necessities out to those who lost their cars.
Ketchum said the community as a whole is also focusing on neighbors helping neighbors.
“One guy came in and said, “All I need is water, save the rest of the stuff for people who really need it,’” the former church elder recalled. “So people aren’t being greedy and taking stuff they don’t need, and that’s one of the best ways you can help your neighbor.”
In the southeast part of the state, Disaster Assistance CoC is also sending volunteers and trucks brimming with supplies to the stricken counties. Mike Baumgartner, the president and CEO of the outreach mission, is leading a team to White Sulphur Springs on July 2.
The team is working with state Sen. John Unger to gather volunteers for cleanup, repairs, meal prep and delivery. Anyone interested in joining can email with names, contact information, days available to work and the state the group is traveling from.
“You see so many things that make you want to cry,” Pauley said, “but you see so many things that make you feel good about being a Christian. There is humanity left in the world.”