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Clergy promote peace during trial

11/1/2021

By Kara Witherow, Editor

Amid those protesting outside the Glynn County Courthouse this week – many from as far away as Virginia, Wisconsin, New York, and Canada – walks Rev. Abra Lattany-Reed.

Wearing a multicolored sticker that reads, “Do Justice. Love Mercy. Walk humbly… together. Glynn,” Rev. Lattany-Reed is one of about 20 area clergy and religious leaders who have formed a diverse ecumenical group, Glynn Clergy for Equity, dedicated to peace and prayer.

Whether sitting under the group’s tent, walking alongside protestors, handing out water and snacks, or praying with Ahmaud Arbery’s family, Rev. Lattany-Reed and the other members of the clergy group are in downtown Brunswick to help promote peace during the trial of three men charged with murder in the February 23, 2020, shooting death of Arbery.

“We have pledged a commitment to pray not just for the trial, but for the community, the needs of the community, and everyone impacted by this,” said Rev. Lattany-Reed, a Brunswick native and pastor of Harper’s Chapel United Methodist Church in Baxley.

In addition to the Micah 6:8 scripture, which the sticker and matching yard signs reference, Rev. Lattany-Reed said the prophet Amos’ message of justice is as relevant today as it was 2,700 years ago.

Bishop David Graves, in a statement to the South Georgia Conference, quoted Amos 5:24 as he addressed justice and the trial and called the body of Christ to a deep place of prayer.

“The scripture the Holy Spirit keeps moving me to pray comes from the prophet Amos,” he said. “The vision that came to Amos, used by many leaders past and present, would be fulfilled, ‘But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.’”

People of faith and United Methodists have a responsibility to work toward justice, healing, and reconciliation, said Rev. Lattany-Reed, who believes the Church can take the lead and show the world how to move toward healing.

“Healing and reconciliation – that’s the role of the Church,” she said. “Reconciliation is about wholeness, and I believe in reconciliation.”

Brunswick First United Methodist Church stands just five blocks from the Glynn County Courthouse. Senior pastor Dr. Wright Culpepper knows members of the Arbery family and the McMichaels family. 

He acknowledges the grief and fear in the community, but says Glynn County has, so far, been peaceful.

“Right now, it’s peaceful. Glynn County has been a model for peace.” 

While it’s easy to cast blame and point fingers, he urges self examination, reflection, and prayer.

“We all need to do work within ourselves,” said Dr. Culpepper, who has asked both his congregation and those he serves at Faithworks, a social services ministry affiliated with The United Methodist Church, to look inside themselves and examine their own hearts for sin.

“My banner, my prayer, is ‘Create in me a clean heart, oh God, and renew a right spirit in me,’” Dr. Culpeper said. “I challenge us to do the same. If there is anything wrong with us, let God deal with us in a gracious and redemptive way.” 

On the other side of town, The United Methodist Church has a quiet but powerful presence as it advocates for justice with two digital billboards that read, “United Methodists Stand Against Racism.” A dozen t-shirts with the same message were given to protesters and are being worn by members of Rev. Lattany-Reed’s congregation.

“We need justice and peace in our communities,” said Rev. David Thompson, superintendent of the Coastal District. “Throughout the Bible, the concepts of justice and peace are frequently expressed together because they are intertwined and support one another.  We will never have peace, shalom, in our communities until we have justice, tsedaqah. The Word of God also shows us that a part of healing for communities is justice. Like Micah 6:8, the prophet Isaiah tells us to ‘learn to do good, seek justice, and to correct oppression.’ So today we stand together that we might learn to do good, seek justice, and correct oppression in the love of God in Christ.”

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