In response to the recent shootings of black men and of police officers, Madison Square Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Mich. held a service of lament on Tuesday, July 12. “As a community we have to work through this together,” said Jermale Eddie, director of reaching in at Madison Church: Ford Campus. “We needed a space for people to come and pray, cry, listen, sing, or just be. To just sit and wrestle with the heaviness of this.”
Young families with children, college students, middle-aged adults and the elderly made up the nearly 140 people in attendance. Others around the world could stream the service live, which is still available to view on Madison Church: Ford's Facebook page.
Julian Newman, pastor of Tribes Church in Grand Rapids, opened with a message based on what it means to “stand firm,” as it says in Exodus 14:13, in times of fear and heartbreak.
The service also included a time of prayer, song, and open conversation.
Newman and Stacia Hoeksema, a professor of social work at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, facilitated the conversation, in which over a dozen men and women of black, white, and other racial identities shared experiences, prayed, read poems, and asked questions.
A young black man shared his experience of living in fear everyday for his life and the lives of his friends and family. Newman responded by saying, “acknowledge [the presence of fear], but do not accept its power over our lives.” There was time of prayer against the fear creeping in.
Later, a woman shared her insight into ways any person can respond in the aftermath of the recent events. “Hold space for people,” she urged. “When we hold space for people, we open our hearts, offer unconditional support, and let go of judgement and control. We say, ‘I may not get your pain, but I am going to acknowledge that it’s real.’”
Following the service, Katie Ulrich, a student at Calvin College, said, “It was beneficial to hear some African-Americans speak about the fear that they experience, especially because I don’t know that experience myself. To realize it and put a face to it makes a huge difference.”
Reflecting on the conversation, Newman explained that its unpredictable nature is both a challenge and a joy. “We had some people share some very heartfelt, passionate prayers and declarations,” he noted, “from a gentleman saying, ‘my family owned slaves,’ to someone saying, ‘I'm really hurting inside.’ The ability to have a forum where that level of authenticity and transparency is shown and illustrated does not happen often enough.”