There’s No Cancelling Hope
It’s the middle of the summer in Venice and there’s not supposed to be much going on. So when Linda and I heard (thanks, Marilyn Marcus!) that Sarasota’s chief of police had agreed to meet the county NAACP to talk about recent events on the national scene, we wondered about attending. When we saw that the meeting would be at Bethel CME Church in the Newtown neighborhood, we decided we had to go.
One reason: Bethel CME is the church home of Dr. John Walker, his wife Meadow Lark, and the powerful choir you may have met when they rocked our sanctuary during Venice Interfaith’s Winter Series the last couple of Januarys.
When we drove up to the church north of downtown Sarasota, the streets were jammed with cars. But then an announcement was made that the meeting had been cancelled - something about ‘logistics,’ so the meeting would be rescheduled at a later date.
One man began telling people to meet at his church on MLK Drive, so we followed the crowd to a tiny one-room building with a nice front porch and a tinny loudspeaker set up outside.
When the meeting began, we pastors (Revs. Gina and Kelly had come from SunCoast Cathedral) were squeezed into the front of the room to sit in places of honor on the chancel. Linda and a bunch of her new BFF’s remained out on the porch.
A few people took the microphone to talk about the recent police killings of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge and Philandro Castile in Minneapolis. A few expressed sympathy for the five officers killed in a Dallas ambush. Many were there to vent their frustrations and air their grievances about their treatment at the hands of Sarasota police and sheriff’s deputies.
It was a long meeting without much focus; the only collective decision made was that they must meet again.
The main thing I left with was a sense of the extreme level of fear on our streets between the people in our communities and the police who are charged with protecting and serving them. But I also got a sense that people now understand that the police are as scared of the situation as they are and – as wrong as it may be – the people may be the ones who have to diffuse situations to help police officers remain calm so that residents stay alive.
One more thing: it gave me great hope to see such a diverse group gather to talk about solutions to huge problems and to hear the ideas of a bunch of young people who know that it’s up to them to make of this mixed-up, messed-up world what they can.
In the end, the people on the porch got drenched in a rainstorm and the people in the pews got drenched with sweat in the evening’s heat. But many went home having heard that we are not as divided as it sometimes seems.
And that Love just may, in fact, be the final answer.
Keeping the faith,