Birmingham clergy concerned about the excessive gun violence occurring in the city this year held a three-night revival Sept. 6–8 to bring attention to the issue in hopes of finding a solution.
Writing at medium.com, Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin noted “homicides in Birmingham have increased in seven of the past 10 years.”
“The homicide rate is up nearly 23 percent over last year. Of the 90 homicides that have occurred in Birmingham through the first eight months of this year, 83 have been by guns,” he wrote prior to the recent shooting deaths taking the number across the 100 mark. The record number of homicides in Birmingham in one year is 148 in 1992, according to various media reports.
The latest violence has affected all ages, but Woodfin said 15 children age 18 and younger have been killed by firearms in 2022, “including a 13-year-old boy who was killed in a drive-by shooting while sitting on the front porch of his home.”
Woodfin called the situation “unacceptable.”
Harold Bass, pastor of Olivet Monumental Baptist Church in Birmingham and founder of the group Clergy Concerned for the Community, agrees.
Bass and the CCC organized the revival, held at Olivet Monumental Baptist, to unite churches, civic leaders and other community organizations in the effort to fight gun violence and provide a safer city for young and old alike.
‘Love one another’
“We are pleading with our young black kings and queens in our communities to put their guns down — to stop the violence and to come up with a resolution of learning how to love one another,” Bass said.
The current effort lines up with the goals Bass set forth in creating the CCC in 2019: “peacefully empowering the residents of Birmingham and surrounding areas … while provoking change” and giving “voice to individuals who otherwise might not be heard.”
The CCC has been actively working in areas of Birmingham where gun violence is the worst and currently has partnerships with 20 individuals and groups, including nonprofits, civic leaders, police departments and sororities/fraternities.
Woodfin supports churches and other agencies working together on the issue. Government alone can’t fix the problem, he said.
“Solving the issue of gun violence in Birmingham will require interventions from a comprehensive partnership of public and private entities,” Woodfin said in his Sept. 6 blog post. “In addition to city government, that includes our corporate community and other private and nonprofit organizations. It includes our district attorney and other components of county government. It includes schools and churches and neighborhood associations.”
Area pastors who participated in the revival agree.
‘Something has to happen’
“We [can’t] just sit idly by and watch [the violence] happen,” Dennis Brown, pastor of West End Hill Missionary Baptist Church, urged at the Sept. 8 revival meeting. “Somebody [has] to do something. Something [has] to happen.”
There is a strong history of Alabama churches working together to address social issues in their communities.
In the 1950s and 60s, Birmingham churches played a role in the U.S. civil rights movement. Not only did churches such as Sixteenth Street Baptist Church and Bethel Baptist Church in Birmingham hold protests, they hosted leaders of the movement like Martin Luther King Jr. for rallies. The tragic bombing of Sixteenth Street Baptist that killed four young girls gained worldwide attention and was a pivotal moment in the movement to end segregation.
For the past 30 years, a group of black and white pastors in Montgomery have been meeting together under the banner of John 17 to spend time in prayer and seek guidance from God on various issues, including those related to racial reconciliation.
A similar effort by Mobile-area pastors, known as The Pledge Group, has hosted events and coordinated efforts to move racial reconciliation forward. The group hosts a multi-racial, multi-denominational annual event called “Shrink the Divide,” and leaders are developing resources to help in their city and beyond.
Issues of concern
Churches also have united around pro-life initiatives, mental health, anti-trafficking efforts and public health issues.
For example, the CCC has provided COVID-19 testing and vaccination sites in their community and held forums to educate the community on various topics.
Writing at Lifeway Research, Daryl Crouch, a longtime pastor in Mount Juliet, Tennessee, who in 2021 helped launch “Everyone’s Wilson,” a network of gospel-centered churches “working together for the good of every person in Wilson County,” said partnerships beyond the church walls are critical for addressing issues faced by communities.
“Rather than creating new church-driven programs, Kingdom-minded pastors lead their congregations to collaborate with other churches and to build partnerships with community leaders and organizations who are already serving our neighbors,” Crouch wrote.
Speaking to those gathered at Olivet Monumental on Sept. 8, P.B. Hatcherson, pastor of Birmingham’s 23rd Street Baptist Church South, said pastors, civic leaders and other concerned community members are doing “a most critical work” in coming together to address gun violence.
“By coming together on these evenings, we are seeking to repair some decaying foundation,” Hatcherson said. “It’s hard, perhaps it’s impossible, for a divided church to speak to a messed-up world. As people of God, we must be united.” (Carrie Brown McWhorter contributed)
Share with others: