By Kara Witherow, Editor
Several South Georgia United Methodists are living out their faith by taking to the streets, protesting for justice and change.
Each weekend beginning June 7, Derian Wilson, a 20-year-old member of Martha Bowman United Methodist Church in Macon, has organized peaceful rallies at the roundabout outside Macon’s Tattnall Square Park.
Wilson says he planned the rallies to protest racism and injustice.
“I’m biracial, so I became aware of racism at a very early age.” he said. “I don’t understand hating people for the color of their skin. I don’t understand it, but I know that it needs to change and I know that my generation can be that change.”
In addition to the protests, Wilson has frequently held signs near busy streets to bring awareness to George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and other victims.
Hoping to see less injustice for future generations, he also seeks justice for those who have been victimized. His faith inspires and challenges him to speak out.
“The greatest commandment is to love God with all of your heart, soul, and mind, and the second is similar: to love your neighbors as yourself. Your neighbor isn’t just the person who lives next to you or the person who looks like you or goes to school with you,” he said. “Your neighbors are the people you share your life with, the people we share this planet with.”
Standing up for what she believes in is an extension of Evan Lovvorn’s faith.
In Thomasville Sunday, June 7, she marched with more than 100 others in a rally against social injustice. The cause of racial equality and justice is important to her, she said.
“It makes me sick to my stomach that there are people who are judged by the color of their skin, because everyone is equal,” said the 17-year-old daughter of Rev. Shane Lovvorn, pastor of Dawson Street United Methodist Church. “The Bible tells us to love our brothers, and our brothers are our brothers in Jesus, in Christ. God tells us to love every single person around us.”
Asbury United Methodist Church member Wendy L. Stepherson, several of her friends, and hundreds of others gathered Sunday, May 31 in front of Savannah City Hall to peacefully protest the killing of George Floyd.
Being part of the crowd and seeing protesters hold signs demanding justice was powerful and touching, she said. So was seeing the diversity in the crowd.
“What I took away from (the protest) was that it is not just not a black race issue. The issue is that black lives matter, but there were different races who participated in the protest. That was encouraging to see,” Stepherson said. “You realize that we are all just one human race.”
But it’s not enough just to rally and protest, she said.
“A change needs to come, and if we don’t change, we are doomed.”
In the midst of the chaos and pain, Rev. Abra Lattany-Reed is hopeful.
“I believe that God is allowing us to reposition ourselves for the finish line, for the fullness of the Kingdom of God,” said Rev. Lattany-Reed, who serves as pastor of Harper’s Chapel United Methodist Church in Baxley.
A Brunswick native, she has been present and vocal at that city’s rallies and demonstrations in the wake of Ahmaud Arbery’s killing. She was invited to speak about what God says about the issues of the day and the need for the community to have emotional healing.
With a message from John 14, she invited the community to see and experience the peace that Christ has given everyone.
“I had an opportunity to share the good news of Jesus Christ and encourage the community to not be afraid,” she said. “Even though this was a dark day, the sun would shine and point them to Christ.”
Rev. Lattany-Reed is one of more than two dozen local faith leaders who has committed to pray for peace before each of the case’s court dates. The next is scheduled for June 26.
This is an opportunity for Christians to let God shine through them, she said.
“Our witness is not just on Sunday mornings,” she said. “Our witness is in the marketplace. This is an opportunity for the church to see itself in a different way. I think people want an opportunity to live out their faith. Unfortunately, it’s often crisis and trials and tragedies that call upon the greater part of us – which is God in us – to stand up and let our light shine and let our witness speak.”
For racial justice resources, visit www.sgaumc.org/racial-justice-resources.