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Sermons call for respect, understanding after police shootings

The Rev. Sedgwick V. Easley, at the Union

The Rev. Sedgwick V. Easley, at the Union Baptist Church in Hempstead on Sunday, July 10, 2016, said, "We've got to do something about these senseless shootings." Credit: Steve Pfost

This story was reported by Christine Chung, Deon J. Hampton, Ted Phillips and David M. Schwartz, with The Washington Post. It was written by Valerie Bauman.

The shootings in Baton Rouge, Minneapolis and Dallas that have convulsed the nation were the focus of Sunday sermons that called for mutual respect and understanding.

Religious leaders acknowledged the public’s frustration and fear but tried to raise the hope that the racially charged violence will end.

“We’ve got to do something about these senseless shootings,” Pastor Sedgwick Easley said Sunday during his sermon at Union Baptist Church in Hempstead. “I’ve had enough of crying mothers and broken fathers.”

Two black men — Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Philandro Castile in Falcon Heights, Minnesota — were shot and killed by police last week. On Friday, a lone sniper and Army Reserve veteran shot and killed five police officers in Dallas, telling police he wanted to kill white officers. The gunman, Micah Johnson, who was black, was killed by a robotic police explosive device.

The shootings have led to protests and arrests across the country.

In Hempstead, Easley titled his sermon, “I’ve had enough.”

“We’ve got to do something about these senseless shootings,” he said. “I know I’m not the only one who’s at my wits end”

At St. Mark Remnant Ministries on NYIT’s campus in Central Islip, Pastor Roderick A. Pearson, called for peace and unity.

Pearson recited the names of blacks killed recently by police — Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, Freddie Gray, as well as Castile and Sterling. But he added, “I pray for the families of the five police officers in Dallas, Texas. They do not deserve that. They are fathers, brothers, husbands, uncles and nephews, just like us.”

Quoting from scripture, Pearson said, “Do not repay anyone evil for evil” and “Bless those who persecute you.”

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, head of the Archdiocese of New York, in his sermon at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan, also cited scripture.

“Thou shall not kill . . . Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Love one another,” Dolan said. “These truths do not come from Fox News or CNN. They come from God. Human life is sacred, never to be treated callously. We are all one family.”

At St. Agnes Cathedral in Rockville Centre, Bishop William Murphy, leader of Long Island’s Catholics, reminded the congregation to be Good Samaritans.

He called on parishioners to ask themselves how they could treat all like neighbors.

“We are called by Jesus not to objectify,” Murphy said. “But rather to keep asking ourselves, who can I be a neighbor to?”

The Rev. Marissa Farrow delivered the sermon at Greater Allen A.M.E. Cathedral of New York in Jamaica, Queens, focusing on being a Christian in trying times, beginning with questioning how to “minister through the madness” and ending with a declaration that “we will bounce back from this” and “everything is going to be all right.”

“I realized that our country was in a place that my generation never knew or believed was possible again. I realized that our country was standing on the brink of a modern day war, but it wasn’t a war between black and white, it wasn’t a war between black and blue, it was a war between love and hate,” she said.

In Dallas on Sunday, T.D Jakes turned his regular service at 30,000-member megachurch, The Potter’s House, into a town-hall meeting, inviting into the pulpit Dallas Police Chief David Brown, Mayor Mike Rawlings and Saundra Sterling, Alton Sterling’s mother.

Today’s racial tension is something the nation should have solved generations ago, Jakes said. “This problem is too old,” he said. “We’re sitting here talking about race in an era where we ought to be talking about terrorism. We ought to be talking about biochemical warfare. . . . We’re dealing with our grandfathers’ problems.

Dolan said today’s problems could be fixed like many others — by going to the source.”

“Look, when something’s broken, we usually consult the manufacturer, the builder, the maker, to find out what’s wrong,” he said. “Well, God is our creator, we are his creatures, so we best listen to his instructions for our repair.”

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