In April 2015, the long-smoldering embers of racial tension in Baltimore City erupted into flames and riots at a level unseen in 50 years. The riots were sparked by the death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old man who was arrested by the Baltimore Police Department for possessing what the police alleged was an illegal switchblade. While being transported in a police van, Gray was injured, fell into a coma, and was taken to a trauma center where he later died.
The riots served as a long-needed wake-up call for a community that had ignored for decades the systematic racism that thwarted and neglected the needs and aspirations of its African American brothers and sisters.
Within days of the riots, the Presbytery of Baltimore began mobilizing to be used by God to help foster healing and real change in the city. While many of our teaching and ruling elders were involved in various organizations and activities to combat racism, poverty and class discrimination, the Presbytery had not acted in a unified manner to address these issues.
Led by an ad hoc committee of teaching and ruling elders, the Presbytery issued a call for the issues of race, class and poverty to be addressed in church services, Christian education classes and in sermons. The Presbytery voted to focus its meetings for an entire year on these three issues.
As a Presbytery, we recognize that we, too, have failed to live up to Christ’s command to love our neighbors as ourselves (Mark 12:33). We have come a long way toward putting these issues at the center of our mission, but we know we still have many miles to go.
This collection of sermons, prayers and liturgies by members of our Presbytery is just a sample of the work we are doing. We hope they will inspire the readers to examine these issues and join us in a prophetic witness as we journey with hope toward wholeness and toward fulfilling God's command to “let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (Amos 5:24).
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