Lynch­ing mu­seum sits nearby his­toric A.M.E. Zion church

South Florida Times - - PRAYERFUL LIVING - PAINFUL HEAL­ING: The Old Ship A.M.E. Zion Church is across the street from the Equal Jus­tice Ini­tia­tive’s lynch­ing me­mo­rial. By MELISSA BROWN Mont­gomery Ad­ver­tiser

MONT­GOMERY, Ala. (AP) - The con­gre­gants swayed to and fro with the key­boardist as golden af­ter­noon sun­light streamed through Old Ship A.M.E. Zion Church's stained-glass win­dows on a re­cent Sun­day af­ter­noon. We have come over a way that with tears has been wa­tered. We have come, tread­ing our path through the blood of the slaugh­tered,Out from the gloomy past, Till now we stand at last. At Mont­gomery's old­est African-Amer­i­can church site, a rolling plot of land do­nated to slaves in 1853, church mem­bers and com­mu­nity guests' voices melded to­gether as they sang stan­zas from the hymn “Lift Ev­ery Voice and Sing.'' Across the street from Old Ship sits Equal Jus­tice Ini­tia­tive's newly opened lynch­ing me­mo­rial which, along with an ac­com­pa­ny­ing down­town mu­seum, ex­poses the ter­ror of Amer­i­can racial vi­o­lence and memo­ri­al­izes its vic­tims.

The Sun­day ser­vice capped days of com­mem­o­ra­tion and cel­e­bra­tion for EJI, a week deeply rooted in an evan­gel­i­cal Chris­tian faith that has served as the axis of Mont­gomery com­mu­ni­ties of color through­out strug­gles for equal rights.

“That me­mo­rial and that mu­seum would not have been pos­si­ble with­out prayer,” EJI Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor Bryan Steven­son said at Old Ship on April 29. “That mu­seum and me­mo­rial would not have been pos­si­ble with­out grace, it would not have been pos­si­ble with­out mercy. ... To­gether we're go­ing to make this a place of heal­ing and re­cov­ery. In the church, you can't get to redemp­tion, you can't get to sal­va­tion, un­less there's a point of con­fes­sion. We're con­fess­ing our his­tory over there.''

Church lead­ers say it's no ac­ci­dent the me­mo­rial, a haunt­ing grove of vic­tims who were bru­tally mur­dered in acts in­tended to sub­ju­gate black Amer­i­cans, sits near a place of sanc­tu­ary.

“God fixed it that when you leave over there an­gry, you can come over here and ex­pe­ri­ence the love of God,'' said J.E. Fields, a pre­sid­ing elder of the A.M.E. Zion East Mont­gomery dis­trict.

Though it's nat­u­ral for vis­i­tors at the me­mo­rial to ex­pe­ri­ence anger, frus­tra­tion and pain at the vi­o­lence and cruelty on dis­play, Bishop Seth Lartey told the church he be­lieves the faith com­mu­nity can pro­vide a respite of for­give­ness and ul­ti­mate victory “over evil.''

“Our hope is peo­ple will make their way to our church even­tu­ally, that it will al­low them a place of refuge, a place of sanc­tu­ary,'' the Rev. Kathy McFad­den said last week. “We're hop­ing the en­tire com­mu­nity will be­gin to heal. Not to put it be­hind us, but to come to­gether.''

A multi-de­nom­i­na­tional group of faith lead­ers l ed that Sun­day's crowd i n prayer f or “re­mem­brance, restora­tion and re­newal'' in Mont­gomery's com­mu­nity, as well as for the lynch­ing vic­tims.

“We pray that you will give us the grace to re­mem­ber and the minds and hearts to make them as present in this mo­ment, when we re­call them, as they are to you in your di­vine love,'' Fa­ther Manuel Williams, pas­tor of Res­ur­rec­tion Catholic Church, said of the lynch­ing vic­tims named across the street.

Steven­son, who pub­licly thanked Old Ship's con­gre­ga­tion at April open­ing cer­e­mony, said Old Ship and the memor ial's sur­round­ing neigh­bors will con­tinue to be a vi­tal part of its suc­cess in Mont­gomery.

“I think we're on the edge of some­thing that can transf orm this city,” Steven­son said. “To­gether we're go­ing to make this a place of heal­ing and re­cov­ery.”


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