Arsons Spark Surpri Sing Flames of Unity

By Washington, Adrienne T. | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), July 2, 1996 | Go to article overview

Arsons Spark Surpri Sing Flames of Unity


Washington, Adrienne T., The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


A time to remain silent. A time to take a stand. A time to make a joyful noise.

At the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum yesterday about 600 people stood to condemn the rekindled racism in America that is evidenced by the frightening rash of burnings of black churches across the South.

Yes, a moment of silence was held for the hallowed, hollow shells of the houses of worship burned to the ground. Yes, many stood against hatred, racism and bigotry.

But many more shouted for joy to the high steel rafters as they proclaimed the unsuspected victory that has risen from the rubble and the ashes.

Out of an ugly, hateful act meant to divide, many are coming together in harmony and love. Unity - despite race, creed and religion - may be the outcome of this heinous destruction of churches.

One by one, the ministers at the "Lift Every Voice" program preached less about the burnings and more about the bridges that are being built across races, denominations and communities, as people pitch in to rebuild the churches.

"God blesses us in a mighty way. He brought us together, black and white, and the walls of denomination have come down," said the Rev. Algie Jarrett. His Mount Calvary Church in Hardeman County, Tenn., was burned Jan. 31, 1995, one of the first in the latest round of arsons.

The ministers shouted of hope, of encouragement, of faith in the good works that can be done by those who share a common bond - their love of God, worship and fellow man. They clapped as the Freedom Singers made a joyful noise with their rousing rendition of "We Shall Not Be Moved."

"Hallelujah," "Amen," "Thank you, Jesus." Odd, but somehow fittingly, an impromptu Baptist revival meeting broke out at the Holocaust Memorial yesterday.

The noontime program was designed to raise the sleepy consciousness of Americans who are dispassionate about these troubling church burnings, and many tourists walked away with raised spirits and renewed hope.

Gail Nolin, an elementary school teacher from Sylvan Lake, Mich., who was in town for the National Education Association convention, said the ceremony "gave me goosebumps."

"Seeing the ministers brought [the problem] in focus; it's not a distant thing any longer," she said.

Art Poe, a high school teacher from Waterford, Mich., said the program showed how widespread the burnings are.

"Too many people are taught to hate, not to love," he said. "But the community is not going to let a few destroy what it has taken 100 years to build."

Museum officials invited several Southern black ministers who lost their churches to arsonists, organized yesterday's program and convened a meeting. …

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