(The following message was published in The Michigan Chronicle in July 2003. The more things change the more they remain the same.)
“As He approached Jerusalem and saw the city, He wept over it.” (St. Luke 19:41)
When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, ‘Lord, if you had been here my brother would not have died.’
When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.
Where have you laid him? He asked.” “Come and see, Lord,” they replied.”
Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”
But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying? (St. John 11:32-37)
“Mary,” my husband called out to me. “Another police officer has been shot – in the head. This time on Corbett Street.”
“Oh, no,” I cried out. When will it all end? When will this madness stop?”
We were dressing for church. I was tired when I arose and, to be honest, didn’t feel up to going to church this Sunday morning. It would, no doubt, be just another routine Sunday: The singers would sing. The visitors would be greeted. The preacher would preach. The offering(s) would be taken; announcements read; the benediction said; and the members of the congregation would hug and kiss one another as they hurried out the door. They would have just completed their religious ritual for the week
What would I miss if I didn’t go? Nothing. Nothing but the same-old same routine that I could do without this morning.
“What, Lord, would you have me to do?” I asked. Suddenly, I was overwhelmed with compassion, “deeply moved in spirit and troubled,” just as Jesus was in St. John 11:33.
“Go to the hospital,” the Holy Spirit directed. “But, Lord, the place will be flooded with police and they probably won’t let me in,” I replied. “Besides, I have no identification.” (My wallet had been stolen just the day before.)
“Go in My Name. I want you to represent me. I will prepare the way for you just as I did the children of Israel when I parted the Red Sea.”
I continued dressing as I listened to my instructions. However, I did replace my blouse with a clergy shirt. (Perhaps the collar will give me a little more respect, I thought.)
Eight years earlier we had moved from the Ravendale Community on the eastside of Detroit to our present westside home. In fact, for 10 years we lived on Corbett Street, the very street where the shooting of Officer Scott Stewart occurred while he was breaking up a gambling game in the middle of the street.
Just a few days prior to this tragedy, my husband, Rev. Eddie K. Edwards, had been in court supporting a family who had lost their son due to gun violence in the same neighborhood. His murderer was being tried for the crime.
Just two months ago, Officer Jessica Wilson, a newly-wed, was slain on the streets of Detroit. In similar tragedies this summer, Police Officers Michael Scanlon and Neil Wells lost their lives.
The Ninth Precinct, where this shooting occurred, has been described as one of the worse areas and toughest precincts in town. The Crime Analysis Unit reports that there were 41 homicides in 2000 and 38 in 2001. Oh, God, what will 2002 look like?
While driving to St. John Hospital where the wounded officer had been taken, lyrics to the song, “Lord, Thy will be done,” came across the radio airwaves. This became my silent prayer for the entire 10-mile drive.
Upon arriving at the hospital, the first people I saw was Officer Stewart’s sister and niece coming out the door. I knew immediately from their tearful countenance that the news wasn’t good. Officer Scott Stewart had been shot down on the streets of Detroit and was being sustained on life support equipment. The Gift of Life Donor Program had been called and the family was making a decision about donating Officer Stewart’s organs should he pass.
Stewart was only 31-years old, engaged to be married on September 19th, and a five-year veteran of the Detroit Police Department. He was the second officer shot down in the line of duty in the past two months.
As I approached the hospital’s entrance, numerous officers dressed in street clothes stood by weeping. I saw a familiar face, Officer Deborah Williams, age 31, and a two-year veteran of the department. We embraced and I said what I could to comfort her and others during this tragic ordeal.
Ironically, Officer Williams’ nephew had been slain on the streets of Detroit two years earlier. This was the family my husband was supporting in court just three days before the Corbett shooting.
Media was everywhere asking questions. They approached me (probably because of my clergy collar.) “Who are you? Why are you here? What did you say to the crowd?” These were some of the questions asked. “Are you a police chaplain? Are you a pastor?” I responded by saying, “No. I’m neither. I’m here representing Jesus. I was moved by His compassion to come here to see what I could do to help.” Perhaps all I could do was give someone a tissue, a listening ear, or a hug. There’s not a lot one can say at a time like this. But I felt that my presence was important.
My husband and I and others have dedicated many years of our lives to building up the Ravendale Community. It saddens us to see how it has fallen back to or worse than its original state. We are now retired and no longer reside in Ravendale. However, this neighborhood still holds a special place in our hearts.
I wept over the city as I drove home wondering, “Is there a solution to this problem of gun violence and, if so, what is it?
I offer for your consideration the following suggestion:
Pastor Eugene Rivers is known nationally for the work that he did in organizing the church leaders and the police department to cooperate in significantly reducing violent crime in a very high crime area in Boston. He put together what is known as the “Boston 10-Point Collaboration.” What this represented was the leadership getting involved at the street level where crime is committed. We must do something like this in Detroit.
In conclusion, I believe that the “Lazarus” referred to in St. John 11:38-44 is the church. And it’s time for the church to come forth!