LEXEXA, Kan. — In the nearly two weeks of daily protests that were spurred by the death of George Floyd, a local pastor says, the church should have been quicker to react. But Sunday morning, people of faith joined forces at a Unity Rally in Lenexa to worship, pray and stand against racism in our communities.
Black and white voices rose together in worship over the Central Green Park in Lenexa, not afraid to express the truth.
“Christians aren’t supposed to hate, but I hate racism,” said former Firefighter Adrian Smith.
The crowd of several hundred people listened, learned and accepted the difficult testimonies with love. Police and politicians attended the gathering promising engage in conversation that would promote change. Smith described being a victim of police brutality when he was pressed face down with a knee in his neck at the age of 15.
“We are tired of being told to shut up. We’re tired of being told to get over it. We are tired of being told to shut up and dribble. We are tired. Enough is enough.”
White pastors were part of the group, asking publicly for forgiveness for years of apathy, denial and silence.
“As a white man and a white pastor I’d like to say I’m sorry. I’m sorry The Big C as in church, for the most part has been silent,” said Pastor Chris Winn of Community Life Church.
The crowd held signs that read “Bare one another’s burdens”, “Liberty and Justice for all” and “Black Lives Matter”.
In a twist on the chant “No Justice. No Peace” that is heard at many protests, this crowd chanted “Know Jesus. Know Peace:. Pastor Eric Cobbins who organized the event told the crowd, “We want the world to know Jesus. If we know Jesus, we will know peace.”
Pastors Eric and Vallerie Cobbins lead The Worship Center of KC. It’s in Lenexa and one of the few predominantly black congregations in Johnson County. Their reaction to the video of George Floyd’s death was soul deep. They don’t believe in rioting and looting, but they understand the desperation and frustration that causes some to react that way.
“I’m angry, and I have a righteous indignation. Even Jesus got angry. And the Bible tells us be angry, but sin not,” said Eric Cobbins.
Valerie Cobbins agrees. She is a mother and grandmother that sees these terrible circumstances as a possible opportunity for real change.
“Let’s have what my husband and me call ‘courageous conversations.’ That means we may say some things that don’t feel well and may hit you a little below the belt, but we are going to put it on the table. We need to get back to that type of conversation.”
Many of the people who attended this rally have not gone to the protests at the plaza or downtown. They didn’t want to be caught in the midst of possible violent exchanges between police and protesters. And frankly, this group wants the love of God to lead the dialog toward forgiveness and change.
“I was so happy when we pulled up to see how diverse the crowd was,” said Timeka Protor. “This is actually the first event that I felt comfortable bringing the kids out to show support for everybody during this time.”
Katie Dixon had one of her children strapped to her chest, and one to her back with the rest of her family in tow. She saw it as a chance to safely support the causes near and dear to her heart. Dixon says she would love to see two things spread as a result of the rally. “Change and the love of Jesus.”
Pastor Cobbins said the church should have been the first responders to the fight against racism.
Now slowly but surely, the church is re-joining the fight. People of faith are urging healing, forgiveness and love in the battle to end systemic racism and raise up a new compassionate generation that eventually ends police brutality and racism.