(RNS) — Sometimes praying, sometimes chanting slogans and sometimes even stung by pepper spray and tear gas, clergy and other faith leaders were among those who protested the killing of George Floyd by a police officer on Memorial Day (May 25) in Minneapolis. Religious feeling also crossed the barricades themselves at times as law enforcement personnel took time to pray with protesters while on duty at the demonstrations. A look at moments of faith this weekend:
Suffering from a blast of police pepper spray, the Rev. Laura Young, an ordained United Methodist elder, received care from bystanders during an anti-racism demonstration in Columbus, Ohio, on Saturday (May 30). “I was pepper sprayed in the face, intentionally, with no warning, by police,” said Young. “We as clergy need to be standing with the marginalized … If we’re going to put our faith into action, which is a phrase a lot of Methodists like to use, what better way to do it than when it’s really needed?” Young is known for her LGBTQ advocacy within the United Methodist Church.
“What is the point of the church if we’re just getting together on Sunday to sing songs? If we’re not showing up when people are suffering and dying, it’s like abandoning our Lord on the cross,” said the Rev. Zachary Hoover, far left, at a demonstration in honor of Floyd on Saturday (May 30).
Hoover, an American Baptist minister, is executive director of L.A. Voice, a multi-racial, multi-faith organization that planned the vigil. “We have privilege as clergy and faith leaders. I think we need to use that as well and use it well,” he said.
Another protester in Pasadena, Samuel Lee, said the Asian community has been silent too long. As a Christian, Lee said, “you can’t say you’re pro-life for an unborn baby but then turn your head away from someone who lost their life and pretend it’s not as important. There’s a lot of hypocrisy.” Lee said he grapples with his faith: “Why do I still believe? Why do I still maintain my religion? But, I still have hope. I think we can do better. It’s just going to start with us.”
The Rev. Sally Howard, associate rector at All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, condemned racism and white supremacy in the church. “If those of us who know God in a different way don’t speak up, then that’s the face of God in the country,” Howard said. “There’s no more being quiet. There’s no more holding back. There’s no more being polite.”
“This is a moment where communities are watching to see if people really believe in the Jesus that they say they do,” said the Rev. Faith Romasco, a pastor at First Church of the Nazarene (PazNaz) at the Pasadena demonstration. “It’s a moment of choosing to be a credible witness and faithful to the gospel.”
Officer Garren Hoskins, right, and an unidentified protester began talking about their shared Christian faith as they stood face to face at a protest at the Central Precinct Police Station in Nashville, Tennessee, Saturday (May 30). According to a tweet from the Nashville police, when Hoskins asked the man to join him in prayer, he put his sign down and they prayed. Later that day, 28 people were arrested in downtown Nashville.
Rev. Jeff Mello, rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Brookline, Massachusetts, center, and Rev. Amy McCreath, dean of St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral in Boston, joined in a march on Sunday (May 31) from a police substation in the Roxbury neighborhood of Boston to police headquarters. The two clergy wore red stoles and other red attire in traditional observance of Pentecost.
The Rev. Brandon Thomas Crowley, senior pastor of historic Myrtle Baptist Church in Newton, Massachusetts, used a megaphone to speak against racial violence at the Boston demonstration.
“Our Lady of Ferguson,” an icon by contemporary artist Mark Doox, was put on display at the Roxbury Police Station after Rev. Laura Everett, executive director of the Massachusetts Council of Churches, held it as the assembled crowd stood in silence for 8 min and 49 seconds, the same span of time Floyd was held down. “Slowly people began to kneel,” Everett later wrote on Twitter. Silence kept. We could hear the chopper overhead. A woman crumpled in tears. The breeze blew thru us.”
A man conveys a variety of messages at a demonstration in Washington, D.C., on Saturday (May 30).
St. John’s Episcopal Church, across Lafayette Park from the White House in Washington, D.C., is guarded during demonstrations Sunday (May 31). A fire broke out in the church’s basement after a “fire igniter” was thrown through a window. No damage was done to the church, where presidents traditionally attend a prayer service on Inauguration Day.
Orange County Sherif John Mina, left, and Orlando Police Chief Orlando Rolón kneel to pray with demonstrators on Sunday (May 31) in Orlando, Florida.