Of course we don’t know, but can you imagine?
Can you imagine a guest at Wednesday night Bible Study? I know church people; I know how we respond to guests, the ones we tend to call “new people.” We welcome them. We smile at them. We say, “So glad you are here tonight.”
We do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers.
Can you imagine? Did someone offer to get him a cup of coffee? Did he pick up a cookie from the table in fellowship hall? Did a particularly kind gentleman gesture at the empty chair, extending an unspoken invitation to sit down and share the class together?
Did he introduce himself when someone extended an open hand to shake?
Of course we don’t know. But it is all too easy to imagine.
He was there for an hour. He sat with the people he was about to kill for sixty minutes. That’s enough time for the initial awkwardness to begin to dissipate. You know, that attitude that we always assume when we meet someone for the first time? A little bit distant, a bit more formal, polite yet cautious. After an hour, some people may have even kind of forgotten he was there.
When they prayed, did he bow his head, too?
I know church people. I know how happy they must have been that a twenty-something had come to Wednesday night church. Church people see youth and we get a little excited. Now, it must have raised a few questions in a few minds that he was white, coming into a mostly black church. But nobody said anything, I’m sure of it. I know church people.
Rev. John Paul Brown of the Mt. Zion church in Charleston, very near the location of the shooting, said this morning, “You can’t say ‘I represent Christ; let me frisk you.’” That’s exactly what I would expect a church person to say. Because that’s who we are; that’s our mission. To represent Christ.
No, we don’t know for sure. But I can’t stop myself from imagining.
When he stood up … When he revealed his gun … When he announced his intention … When they began to realize what exactly was happening …
Was there even enough time to be confused? To makes sense of the movement, the noise?
We don’t know. We might never know. But we can imagine. I wish I couldn’t, but the truth is I can imagine it very well.
I’m a church person. I know church people. Nine of my sisters and brothers are dead today because of one man’s act of violence. I do not want to be imagining this any more.
Today we are all members of Emanuel AME Church in Charleston. Today we are all church people.