Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Sermons Tackle O.J. Verdict Church Leaders Urge Flocks to Heal the Rift of Racism

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Sermons Tackle O.J. Verdict Church Leaders Urge Flocks to Heal the Rift of Racism

Article excerpt

The O.J. Simpson verdict reverberated Sunday in churches throughout the St. Louis area.

The topics: violence, race and the question of whether justice was served in the acquittal of Simpson.

Following is a summary of what was said in four churches - in the Central West End, north St. Louis, Webster Groves and Clarkson Valley: Pilgrim Congregational

The Rev. Barney Kitchen, pastor of Pilgrim Congregational United Church of Christ, 826 Union Avenue in the Central West End, said he lost a $15 bet on the jury's verdict. On Sunday morning, he asked his integrated congregation to take a different gamble, to talk openly to one another about their feelings.

"Consider investing your soul," he told his congregation. "It may cost us our peace of mind, maybe even a few friends, to try and get at the truth."

Ed Heininger, 71, a member of the congregation and a retired minister, said that he heads a task force to dismantle racism.

He said he thought that open discussion of racial differences was important, but he said he believed that such a sensitive issue needed a vehicle such as the task force to prevent things from getting out of hand.

Kitchen acknowledged that deep and emotional discussions "would be dangerous talking stranger to stranger. But if it doesn't happen in the church, where in God's name does it happen?" Cote Brilliante Presbyterian

"A Time for Healing" was the title of the sermon by the Rev. William Gillespie, pastor of Cote Brilliante Presbyterian Church, 4673 Labadie Avenue.

Gillespie told his black congregation that when the verdict came in, he was in Atlanta in the midst of a cheering crowd being filmed by a television crew.

While he was happy about the verdict, he told his congregation that it led him to ponder the amount of violence in our society.

He also said he had been struck by the St. Louis' indifference to black-on-black crime. He said he had officiated at funeral services for many children who had died violently. …

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