More than two years ago, I was asked to represent our church in the Greenwood District of Tulsa as plans were forming to commemorate the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. I believe it speaks highly of our church and the impact we’ve made in our community that we were both invited and welcomed by the folks in Greenwood, and in particular a bridge was created between our church and several African American churches, which we were able to leverage to connect more churches of many different varieties in Tulsa.
In November of last year, not long after we had an evening of listening and learning in our worship center, our Oklahoma Baptists convention joined the efforts and we all worked together to develop a prayer and worship guide for churches to use today.
As a result – we and some 70 churches in Tulsa today will be reading from Isaiah:
Forget the former things;Isaiah 43:18-19
do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.
In our services we will also praying the same prayer points (below), and singing Amazing Grace – a hymn that can be heard sung regularly in churches with mostly white members, African American churches, Native American Churches, and in churches singing in many different languages all over the world. I can think of no other time in Tulsa’s history that our city’s churches have come together with such a shared commitment and plans.
Our churches have chosen to model Christian unity today by joining our hearts and our worship together as we also pray for our hearts and our city on the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre. When you think about it, the Church is better equipped to address issues of racism and healing than anyone else, because we do so with the only true message of hope that confronts the sinful human heart as we also proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ: “For God so loved the world that He gave His one any only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life!” (John 3:16)
As your pastor, I want to thank you as my church family for being overwhelmingly willing to take a listening and learning posture for all these months. We know that not everyone has yet been willing to open their hearts towards neighborliness and community. Some still choose to dig in their heels and divide further. BUT NOT OUR CHURCH. We, like many other churches and people we’ve met on the journey towards reconciliation in Christ’s name these last few years have chosen to people over politics and pursue dialogue over division.
Today, we unite we unite with other churches around Tulsa to remember, acknowledge, and pray the following:
• We pray against the attitudes of racism that still exist in our world and in our culture today.
• We pray against the sin of racism that still lives in some of our churches today.
• We pray and repent of attitudes of racism, prejudice or bias that God finds in your heart. Though some might be tempted to be defensive about this, the Apostle John reminds us that intentional blindness to our sin is antithetical to truth – If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us (1 John 1:8); while also reminding us that in Jesus Christ forgiveness is possible! If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness (1:9).
• We pray that we will see all people as made in the image of God and worthy of respect and a voice.
• We pray for the healing which only the Spirit of God can bring.
• We pray that in spite of this horrific tragedy, God can use each of us to help move us all forward along the path of racial reconciliation and harmony for the next generation to see, experience and pass along.
–Greenwood Rising Video (my interviews included)
–Podcast Interview with Baptist Messenger with myself, Mark Dance, and Brian Hobbs: https://www.baptistmessenger.com/messenger-insight-414-tulsa-race-massacre-centennial/
-Article and link to more about FBC Tulsa’s Race Massacre Prayer Room which was very well done: https://www.baptistmessenger.com/messenger-insight-423-praying-for-tulsa/
One thought on “Letter to My Church on the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Sunday”
Thank you for calling out racism as a sin. Your church is leading the way in helping heal from this tragedy.