Many African American churches across the country this Sunday will hold special services focused on black men, policing and the theme “black lives matter.” Congregants are urged to wear black and to pray for the black men in their community.
Among the denominations involved are the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church and Church of God in Christ, whose combined membership is well into the millions.
The Reverend Dr. Grainger Browning, pastor of the 8,000-member Ebenezer AME in Fort Washington, Md., said Monday that he plans to turn over the pulpit for both services to youth ministers “so the younger voice can be heard.”
Last Sunday, Browning said, he asked his largely African-American congregation during services how many people have had some negative interaction with police “and 99 percent of the hands rose.”
Browning said the idea for Sunday – which will use the hashtag #blacklivesmatter – came out of meetings with black leaders in different U.S. cities looking for ways to express solidarity related to the string of recent prominent police-related killings of black Americans. The relationship between African Americans and their local police varies widely from place to place, he said, praising his local authorities in Prince George’s County.
“Our solidarity is not just on those [recent] cases. For African-Americans the relationship with police has been an ongoing challenge,” he said.
Presiding Bishop Charles E. Blake, Sr., leader of the 6.5-million member Church of God in Christ, said in a news release about Sunday that it is meant to honor Michael Brown and Eric Garner — both killed by police.
“We must find a way, through God’s help, to continue the work of emphatically telling everyone that will listen that: ‘Black Lives Matter!'” he said in a statement.