50 Years After Detroit Riots, Churches Endeavor to Bridge Lingering Racial Divide

Rochester Church of Christ elder Greg Guymer prays at the Oakland Church of Christ. To the right of Guymer is Oakland elder Ive Edwards. (PHOTO BY BOBBY ROSS JR.)

Rochester Church of Christ elder Greg Guymer prays at the Oakland Church of Christ. To the right of Guymer is Oakland elder Ive Edwards. (PHOTO BY BOBBY ROSS JR.)

The boys — one black, one white — were 10 years old.

Ive Edwards lived close to where the chaos started. Smoke filled his nostrils as arsonists set his hometown ablaze. Looters ran by his window. Army tanks rolled down the street. The pop-pop-pop of gunfire pierced his ears. Afraid of stray bullets, he dove under his bed.

Greg Guymer witnessed the turmoil from Detroit’s outskirts. Helicopters whipped overhead, soldiers’ legs dangling out like a scene from Vietnam. Fear paralyzed him, but his grandfather admonished him to hide in the basement if the war zone approached.

Fifty years after the 1967 Detroit riot, Edwards and Guymer recounted their experiences as two congregations sought to model Christian unity in a nation that still struggles mightily with race — as illustrated by the fatal clashes between white supremacist groups and counter-protesters in Charlottesville, Va.

Even before Charlottesville, the predominantly black Oakland Church of Christ and the predominantly white Rochester Church of Christ — both north of Detroit — saw a need to bridge the divide.

“Love conquers hate because God is love,” said Edward Cribbs, minister for the 300-member Oakland church. “The Oakland and Rochester congregations are endeavoring to bring to the forefront the issue of race and reconciliation. The events in Charlottesville remind us that our efforts are long overdue.”

Adam Hill preaches for the Rochester church, which averages Sunday attendance of 550. He said Charlottesville demonstrates that “the ministry of reconciliation must be learned again and again by every generation.

“The truth is that the devil is not going to give up without a fight,” Hill said. “The gospel will not allow churches to remain silent about loving one another and recognizing the dignity that each of God’s children has been given.”

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SOURCE: Bobby Ross Jr.
The Christian Chronicle

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