In Spite of What You See

“Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”

There are three takeaways from John 20:19-31 that I wish to offer concerning the resurrection. 

First, the resurrection is personal and relational. When Jesus met Mary, he approached her and offered himself to Mary to which she replied “teacher”, she recognizes Jesus as her teacher and thus she is a disciple. When Jesus first appears to the disciples in their locked home her offers peace and breathes the Spirit of God upon them. Jesus gets extremely personal with Thomas. There is something almost voyeuristic with the encounter of Jesus and Thomas. This is an intimate moment to which Thomas replies, “My Lord and my God.”

Then there is Peter who Jesus walks with. Jesus asks Peter three times if he loved him, once for each time Peter denied Jesus. Jesus reconciles with Peter, instructs Peter to follow him and gives Peter the keys to the church. The resurrected Jesus is personal and relational. As a professor once said, “it’s not pie in the sky, but ham where I am, chicken in the kitchen.”

The second take away is the resurrection is physical and bodily. The fact the Jesus showed the disciples his wounds shows that Jesus didn’t come back as an apparition or ghost, but he, his body, rose again. As Jesus is the first fruits of resurrection, we know that our resurrection will be bodily, our loved ones lost will be raised from the dead, not in spirit, but in reality, just as real as Jesus was when he sat, ate, and drank with the disciples.

Finally, the third takeaway of the resurrection is the effects are communal, not individualistic. The effect of the risen Jesus shapes our communities just as much as it shapes us personally. When we look to the community in Acts, we find a community concerned for each other. There are no superstars or rock stars, but a community where each member is a different part of the same body.

You may have a personal relationship with Jesus, but it is not complete without the body, without the community to which you belong. It’s the reason why so many of us are yearning to when we can regather, which God willing will be soon.

This is the Easter story, that the risen Jesus, still carrying His wound, meets us in our fears and doubts. Jesus is intimate and personal with us. Death is not the final answer, life through the risen Jesus is.

~Rev. Nick

God Participates in Our Suffering

“God not only participates in our suffering but also makes our suffering into his own and takes our death into his life.”

Jürgen Moltmann

We keep hearing it, this past year has been one for the books, one “heck” of a year; I know I’ve said it more than once. And the truth is for many, many people it really has been a pretty horrible year to put it mildly. The Pandemic has now brought death to over 560,000 lives in our country alone. That number doesn’t begin to account for the countless many who are suffering the lingering effects of the virus. Nor does it take into account the economic hardship and injustices so many have faced.

This past year also brought to the forefront the suffering and injustice faced by many people color. There have been numerous killings of innocent black lives, mostly by the hands of the state meant to serve and protect them. Asian Americans have seen a grisly rise in hate-crimes along with many lives cut short. All the while desperate families fleeing from imminent danger to find a better life here (in the country that most likely created the conditions for why they had to flee in the first place) were met with Gestapo like tactics, being thrown into literal cages, while babies and children were ripped from their parents. I still haven’t got to the insidious insurrection just a few blocks from our church that took the lives of five people. And of course there are our own personal losses, loved ones gone in other ways. I could go on, but I think the picture is unfortunately clear enough.

And so, here we are in Easter. We’re doing our best to live into the Easter reality, into the truth of resurrection. We’re doing our best to claim the joy of Jesus’ conquering of death and shall continue to claim that joy. We celebrate lives lived, and life itself for Jesus has brought victory. Yet Jürgen Moltmann says, “God not only participates in our suffering but also makes our suffering into his own and takes our death into his life.” Holy Week reminds us of a God who loves us, joined in our suffering, continues to join in our suffering, and takes our death in to his life. May we take solace and comfort in the God who provides balm for those in pain, offers hope for the hopeless, soothes all suffering, and conquers death, for this realization is Easter.

~Rev. Nick

Down To The Cross

Friends, this week we have a meeting to attend. It’s not a business meeting, so no business casual attire, and no business class seats (or pews), with a window view from which we can look down upon the world, and our fellow humanity. We are traveling by foot, down an unpaved road, on a crowded street. It is a meeting with Jesus down at the foot of the cross. But before we get there some decisions must be made. You see for our meeting to take place we must decide to go with and stay with him there. This is not a moment of pomp and circumstance, but of abandonment and transformation. A decision to follow him, will mean checking your status, your pride and worldly education; (not brain) at the door. To follow him to this cross may mean death for us, but guaranteed death for him. Understanding the true Gospel of Jesus, in today’s nationalized, center left or far right, commodified religions is not easy.

His birth and presence challenged an empire. An empire which sought to acquire, control and define the peoples Worship. This society was numb to the pain, suffering and despair of this broken but beautiful world. We will talk about beauty another day, but today I want us to see the tragic murder of an innocent man named Jesus from Nazareth. The very same empire sent his mother, Mary, fleeing from her homeland to save the life of her newborn baby. Why? What had this child full of promise done? After some time away, for safe keeping he returned a boy, ready to become a man. A child full of promise, steeped in the knowledge of his purpose and mission, he began his ministry. He would not pass by the woman at the well. He would not allow a woman accused of committing adultery to be stoned. He would not allow the crowd on the banks of the river to leave hungry, and after showing them compassion and healing them he feeds the multitude with two fish and five loaves of bread. This caused such a disturbance to the religious, contemporary and earthly authorities’ way of life, that a plot to kill him was ultimately conceived. The empire which claimed and comforted that prominent religious community, struck at night. Attempting to hide their acts by cover of darkness. Jesus was there announcing a new “Kindom” (Rev. Starlette Thomas). Yes, as in those whom you oppose and oppress are my Kin, they are my family. And, as his time with us will be short, the Word made flesh demonstrated the power of God. The same power which will liberate us.

He does not come to bring peace, nor to enlarge our territory. No, he comes with a sword. He comes with a word, words which still keep the powerful up late at night, words which strike fear into the heart or mind of the rich and powerful: “The last shall be first, and the first shall be last.” Something must be done. And with their hands wringing, and minds spinning, a trap is set. One of his closest friends will sell him out! An arrest is made. He will be beaten all night long and mocked. A show trial is had, and the verdict pronounced. GUILTY. Pilate tries to wash this man’s blood from his hands, but the water is powerless to make him guilt free. Just as our baptism with water alone does not, and will not guarantee freedom from our transgressions, or a guilt ridden conscious. His execution is scheduled for Friday morning. A rugged cross is made for him, a crown of thorns pressed in his head, and he is made to walk a road to a hill of skulls. Along the way a black man is seized and made to carry the cross behind Jesus. “Luke 23:26, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming from the country, and they laid the cross on him, and made him carry it behind Jesus.” His unwitting participation paints a map for the journey we too shall take.

We too must be seized by the spirit, in order to carry this cross. It alone ensures the ultimate downfall of empires which mock God, as they brutally attack and oppress the innocent. Author and scholar: James Cone’s book: “The Cross and The Lynching Tree”, expresses the theological significance of this poignantly. As we make our way to our own meeting with Jesus; remember to pack light. Take nothing with you for your journey. No race, no class, no currency and no hate. Our Great High Priest became a sacrifice for the liberation of the oppressed. The Son of God, The Word made flesh, signs a New Covenant for us in his blood. To partake in this covenant requires more than rituals, or membership in good standing. It will require more than an allegiance split between God, career and country. It announces a reckoning; “Repent, the Kindom of God is at hand”. The Gospel makes reordering of our very way of life necessary. It will mean symbolically leaving behind the world which welcomed him not, and still holds hostility for the immigrant. It brings an end to the dominate social order and brings about the Reign of Christ’s Grace and coming Glory. This sounds like foolishness to some folks, yet 1 Cor. 1:18 says “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written: ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.’” And as we find ourselves in this Holy meeting, at the cross of Jesus, may we come to see in God’s wisdom and righteousness, just how foolish and often cruel, this world so loved by God truly is. May we find the strength to re-prioritize, be re-educated, and renewed as we go with Jesus; down to the cross.

Acknowledge Our Brokenness

Centering dominate, white culture (even within in the church) must be disrupted in order for us to find new paths that we can walk together. We are in the midst of the season of Lent, a time in the Church when we acknowledge our brokenness. The same deep brokenness that caused religious and political leaders to conspire together to kill Jesus Christ, the bearer of love, rather than embrace his faithful witness is evident in the killings of innocent victims in Atlanta and the other-ing and violence across the country. Each one of us is called to disrupt our desire for comfort and familiarity, to enter a beloved community where all can flourish.

Rev. Larissa Kwong Abazia

This past week we saw the horrible tragedy of yet another racially motivated killing. Anti-Asian racism has increased drastically since the begin of the pandemic, largely due to certain elected officials using racial slurs to describe the virus. We at Riverside stand with our Asian-American sisters and brothers and condemn all forms of racism and bigotry.

What further made matters worse was the initial briefing by local law enforcement that suggested the killer “was having a bad day” and committed the crimes because of sexual addiction. This particular officer, who at one-point last year encouraged the sale of t-shirts that had a racial slur written on it, said he did not think the attack was racially motivated. I won’t go into the all the numerous details of why this horrendous attack was most certainly racially motivated; many other more nuanced and intelligent pieces have been written on the subject. To be clear, the attack wasn’t just racially motivated, but was intersectional cross matters of race, misogyny, and social status. There have been innumerable “bad days” that did not end up with eight innocent people dying.

I do wish to briefly address this idea that somehow the killer’s piety played into his vile actions. First off, it doesn’t. If the killer was a person of faith, particularly the Christian faith, he wouldn’t have resorted to any form of violence. In fact, Jesus instructs us in Matthew 5:29, “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into Gehenna.” That’s YOU, YOUR, your eye, not that of any other. To somehow state that the killer’s combination of faith and sexual addiction led to these actions is to minimalize the teachings of Jesus and to not recognize the effects of toxic purity culture in many churches. Jesus instructs us to handle our own affairs before we engage with others’. “… how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:5). I weep for the victims and pray for peace to come their loved ones. These victims were innocent, and targeted because of the racist, perversive beliefs of the killer.

We must continue to train our eyes to see each other as image bearers. We are all children of God and bear God’s image. When racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia and the like rear its ugly head, it’s because of a failure to see God in each other. I pray for the many victims across our country who are in pain. I pray that God will not just be the Great Physician, but on this occasion the Great Ophthalmologist training and healing our eyes to see one another as we are, children of God.

~ Rev. Nick

For God So Loved the World

“And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”

“Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”

John 3:14-17

Jesus’ advent amongst us can lead to life or it can confirm one’s place among the dead, much like what we read in Ephesians chapter 2. God’s motivation for sending Jesus is not condemnation, but as John 3 says, God’s motivation is love.

God sends Jesus into the world, and that trip culminates with Jesus’ own placement upon a stake, a pole, a Roman cross. Lifted high, Jesus’ pierced body demands attention, our attention. Just like the serpent in the wilderness Moses used to save the Israelites, Jesus’ body, which is the very location of God’s glory, is the most staggering revelation of the gospel and the life it offers. Rather than judging, Jesus’ form suspends and hangs, in order to be seen by those who dare face the abhorrence of “the sin of the world” that caused the Lamb of God to die.

Yet, rather than despair, this sight is also the place of life, the sign of God’s profound love for all of creation, for all of us. Just as the Israelites in Numbers 21 looked to the serpent, a sign of their sin, in order to be healed, we too must look at our sin in order to be healed. Again, I say we must look at our sins in order to be healed.

Do understand Jesus did not sin, but Jesus took on our flesh, and on the cross Jesus accepted all of our sin upon him, he took on the sins of the world past, present, and future, and he did so that we might have life. Hear the good news this Lenten season, the good news of God’s love for you. God so loves you he gave his only begotten son for you. Jesus so loves you he took upon himself all of your sin, so you may have life.

~Rev Nick

107:1 O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever.

107:2 Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, those he redeemed from trouble

107:3 and gathered in from the lands, from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south.

107:17 Some were sick through their sinful ways, and because of their iniquities endured affliction;

107:18 they loathed any kind of food, and they drew near to the gates of death.

107:19 Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress;

107:20 he sent out his word and healed them, and delivered them from destruction.

107:21 Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love, for his wonderful works to humankind.

107:22 And let them offer thanksgiving sacrifices, and tell of his deeds with songs of joy.

Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22


Many churches are doing their best to be diligent about following public health recommendations as they relate to COVID-19, Riverside being such a church. However, there are sister churches in states (Texas and Mississippi) that disregard such recommendations of safe protocol. These churches, those in states who are disregarding the expert health officials, are now one of the few if not the only dimension in congregants’ lives in which parishioners are still being asked to follow public health recommendations. This has placed these churches in a difficult situation.

The churches who are now voluntarily complying with health officials are offering a counter-cultural witness of the gospel of life. That is, these churches are following the command to love thy neighbor by keeping them safe and are doing so at a great risk. In a society so habituated with commercialism and consumerism, it is easy for churches to begin to develop anxieties. What if our members leave and find congregations willing to risk the lives of their members to gather? Then, on the other hand, churches also run risks from the ease of couch worshiping. This past year has allowed many to sit comfortably in their homes while they drift in and out of services found online. Folks may like the music here, but the preaching is better there, and finally this church ends their service how I like it. The couch worshiping may beget complacency.

There are no easy answers, trust me, but I do find solace and wisdom in Paul’s words to the church at Corinth, “For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”

The challenge is for us to both see the message about the cross as it pertains to the safety of our most vulnerable within our communities (why churches ought to heed the wisdom of public health officials), and understand that our acts, the actions of Christians and of the church, will be deemed foolish by many in our society. It will be foolishness to those who are perishing; unfortunately, many are literally perishing because of this foolishness, foolishness of not listening to the health experts.

We’re in Lent and we’re also in a sort of exile and have been for almost a year. But we are still the church, we are still from Riverside, and we are still loving one another as best we can, and we are still claiming the power of God.

~ Rev. Nick

1:18 For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

1:19 For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”

1:20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?

1:21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe.

1:22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom,

1:23 but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles,

1:24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

1:25 For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength

1 Corinthians 1:18-25

Despite Our Good Intentions

There’s an old saying that goes, “The path to hell is paved with good intentions.” The saying usually is to convey, “So-and-so were trying to help, but they didn’t realize…” or, “So-and-so thought if they did this, it would be a good thing,” or the classic, “They meant well.”

More often than not, “The path to hell is paved with good intentions,” is said when someone did or said something from a place of ignorance and unawareness. And the point being made goes to show that ignorance is not always bliss.

Jesus begins to tell His disciples that He must endure great suffering, be persecuted by the authorities and those in power, and then killed. This is the first time Jesus brings up death in the Gospel of Mark. Until now all the disciples have seen and heard were healings and restoration of life.

Peter took Jesus aside, and perhaps said something to the effect that Jesus shouldn’t be talking like that, the disciples were there for Him. Jesus in turn then says, “Get behind me, Satan.”

Here’s the point I want to make. Peter meant well. His good intentions came from a seemingly good place. Peter obviously cared for Jesus and this is why he took Jesus aside. Yet, Jesus’ response was another way of like telling Peter the path to hell is paved with good intentions, except Jesus got straight to the point – “Get behind me Satan.” But, Jesus’ rebuke didn’t stop there; He continued with instruction.

I’ve heard it said before that rebuke is a fork in the road for a wayward soul. Will we cringe at correction as if it were a curse, or embrace the blessing of rebuke? The book of Proverbs is packed full of wisdom regarding rebuke as something to embrace the blessing thereof.

During this Lenten season, a season of reflection, I encourage you not to let those moments of rebuke, especially self-rebuke, bring you down and derail you. Give yourself a little extra grace and hear the good news of God’s generous grace and love for all of us.

I feel confident in saying I’m pretty sure none of you has been called “Satan” by Jesus, but even if you have, just as Peter was embraced by our loving God and became the rock on which the church was built, so are you embraced, so are all of us loved and embraced.

As Paul says in Romans Chapter 8 nothing, and he means absolutely nothing, can separate us from the love of God. And so, that all embracing love, no matter how well intentioned we are, is the hope we live by each day.

~ Rev. Nick

Looking Back to Move Forward

It has been forty-five days since the January 6 storming of the Capitol and seven days since the U.S. Senate acquitted Donald Trump of inciting the riot that caused the death of five people. I want to believe the rioters are gone, back to their small towns and villages, where they don’t have to see or speak to anyone like me, but some of those who engaged or supported the riot live closer to me than I want to acknowledge. The Justice Department is indicting participants in the deadly riot. Still, Republican state legislators are introducing bills to restrict early and absentee voting, furthering the specious notion that widespread fraud denied Donald Trump the 2020 presidential election. Meanwhile, I am left to struggle with questions over whether I have a future here, in my country of birth. The answer is no longer sure.

Although I was born in Philadelphia, no less, the nation’s birthplace, the rioters were testing my right to citizenship and its most essential pillar – the right to vote. Sure, I can claim birthright citizenship which came in 1868 with the passage of the Fourteenth Amendment. It defined citizenship as applying to “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof.” The amendment granted citizenship to freed slaves after the Civil War, overriding the Naturalization Act of 1790 that conferred citizenship only on free white persons “of good character.” It also nullified the Supreme Court’s 1857 decision in Dred Scott v. Sandford that rejected the notion of African-American citizenship. But the riot was a challenge to democracy, particularly the Fourteenth Amendment. It felt deeply personal as if the right to vote and have it count was on the line.

Whatever right I thought I had, whatever citizenship claim I could assert, the rioters had shaken everything on January 6. But any bit of uncertainty I may feel is pale in comparison to the ever-present tension my ancestors must have lived with before the Fourteenth amendment’s ratification as free and enslaved inhabitants of Virginia. Through genealogical research, I have found a glimmer of their struggle for recognition, even when it’s refracted through the words of a slave owner like Caroline Littlepage.

On August 18, 1857, Caroline Littlepage wrote in her diary, “A delightfully pleasant day. The Maj. rode to the mill, then to the Court House, and returned at dark. I have been quite sick nearly all day from eating watermelon, had to go to bed.”

I laughed and immediately thought of challenging a group of friends to write their diary entry — riffing off Caroline’s words and making something of their own.

Caroline Littlepage wrote her diary entry 164 years ago from her King William County, Virginia plantation. Along with her husband, Major Lewis Littlepage, Caroline owned Woodbury, a plantation in Virginia’s Tidewater region. Caroline B. Ellett married Lewis Littlepage on February 5, 1829. She had 13 children. The Ellett and Littlepage families were two of the most prominent families in the county and among its largest landholders. Both families were established in the county before its formation in 1702. Her words are lean and factual, making the diary feel more like an almanac. The weather, household chores, church, and the coming and going of her children and extended family members occupy prime space in her diaries, ranging from 1855 to the late 1860s.

There is something carefree and upbeat about her August 18 entry. The day is sunny and warm. The Major is tending to his mill business, and later, he will go to the courthouse that sits on land his family donated to the county. When it is dark and the sky is full of stars, he’ll ride his horse home and have supper.

This outward picture of bliss can’t hide the uneven social order which made their lives comfortable. Caroline’s words belie the trouble that surrounds her, like the slave cabins hidden behind a nearby grove and the great civil war that is coming.

The disconnect between what Caroline can see and what she cannot see could make me laugh – but I rarely do. Her blind spots could make me angry – but I never am. I have the benefit of time, and it would be too easy to mock her ways and the antebellum lifestyle she represents. In fact, I am thankful to her because, in her diary, I found an entry that I believe mentions my great-great-grandfather when he was a young boy. His name is “Henry Littlepage.”

On January 29, 1864, Caroline writes that Henry delivered an invitation to her children to spend the evening at their Uncle Hardin’s house. It’s just a line. One hundred-odd letters of the alphabet. A peppercorn of action, but so full of meaning for me. Do you understand how rare it is for an African-American to see the name of an ancestor before 1870? Not a number, but a name. Henry and his letter delivery amount to little in Caroline’s life, but it meant a great deal to me. In her diary, he moves when the movement of most black people is violently restricted. On official documents, we are often reduced to a hash mark, but I can almost imagine his face on this page.

The excitement I felt when I saw his name in her diary now five years ago was unforgettable. I’m tied to him, this family, and this land across centuries.

Caroline is white. Henry is probably the mixed-race illegitimate son of Caroline’s brother-in-law, who lives on a nearby plantation. Henry is not enslaved. I don’t read Caroline’s diary for amusement. I’m searching for stories to tell about my place in America, our place in America.

Before I began researching my ancestry, I had one singular narrative, and Philadelphia was at its center. Three of my four grandparents were born in Philadelphia. I was fascinated, maybe even a bit envious, of kids who went south during the summer to visit their grandparents and extended family members.

As an adult living here in D.C., I met some friends for drinks at the rooftop bar of the W Hotel one evening. A woman who was from the south asked me, “Where are your people from?” I said, “Philadelphia.” She looked puzzled and asked me again. “No, really, where are you from?” Again I answered, “Philly.” She assumed it was a pretense, but Philly was all I knew, as did my parents and their parents. I could date the earliest arrival in Philadelphia to the 1880s, and that made me proud. At the time, I didn’t know my ancestors came from Virginia’s Tidewater region and may have descended from some of the earliest Africans and Europeans to land in the Virginia colony.

Last year was tumultuous. The constant sound of sirens from police cars and the helicopters patrolling the skies of Washington, D.C., last spring and summer made me anxious. The riot left me feeling unsteady and unsure about my connection to white people and this country. Oddly, reading Caroline’s journal and doing my genealogical research makes me feel American. In the reading, I see African-Americans, my ancestors, pushing forward to say I’m here and to assert claims of citizenship-what I once took for granted. I use the research to push back racist narratives and willful ignorance. I look back to move forward.

Little Sermons

Finally, my brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

Philippians 4:8 NIV

Little sermons, found in bulletins, greeting cards, notes, etc. are so often overlooked.  If you spent a lot of time searching for the card that conveys the exact message that you want to convey, chances are that it was time well spent.   Here are some of my personal examples:

Always in My Heart. That’s You!

Hope you are well – This card was meant for me to send to you – as it expresses my thoughts so well.


Thank you so very much for all your kindness and thoughtfulness when I was so ill. I am especially grateful for taking the time to pray for me.

Love, Veronica

Mrs. McCullough, Remembering you is one of the special joys of the season.

John W. Mitchell

Have a blessed Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Your sweet smile and loving greetings every Sunday morning makes my day special! Thank you!


Black History Month: Ida B. Wells-Barnett

“Go tell it on the mountain.” “Sermon on the Mount.” “Spreading the gospel.” “The good news.” These are not only common phrases for Christians, but also common phrases in American culture. The idea of sharing our story, our testimony, and what we believe in with others is an integral part of our American experience – particularly the Black American experience. We know that through telling our stories, we form shared beliefs and shared cultures.

Ida B. Wells circa 1895

Throughout Black history, there are many examples of powerful orators, storytellers, and visionaries. Ida B. Wells-Barnett was all three. As a writer, editor, and newswoman, Wells-Barnett not only broadcast the injustices of anti-Black lynching; but created numerous platforms to share the stories of others with the goal of achieving justice.

In addition to utilizing her Memphis based newspaper, the Memphis Free Speech, Well-Barnett traveled the country and Europe to make light of anti-Black lynching that ravaged the American South. Her advocacy did not go unnoticed. Threats of harm from white supremacist vigilantes kept the writer and editor from her home in Memphis, Tennessee in 1893. While away from home, the well-traveled orator had made it her business to share the injustice of lynching that occurred right in a suburb right outside of Memphis. Wells-Barnett chronicles her story in her 1893 speech, “Lynch law in all its phases,” delivered in Boston.

Well-Barnett traveled across the country and across the Atlantic with the goal of engaging others in a long-term campaign to eradicate lynching and all forms of anti-Black violence. She appealed to people of all identities and self-interests, including fellow Black people, international allies, and specifically Christians. In Wells-Barnett’s 1909 speech, “Mob Murder in a Christian Nation,” the orator appeals to not only the ideals espoused by our constitution, but also appeals to the Christians of our nation.

As one of the founders of the NAACP in 1909, An early advocate of the anti-lynching bill was Ida B. Wells-Barnett. Due to her indefatigable advocacy, a federal bill to make lynching a federal crime was introduced in 1918. Now after a century, the campaign to make lynching a federal crime is still an active struggle. Just last year, the three Black senators – two Democrats, one Republican – introduced legislation to make lynching a federal crime, a signature campaign of the NAACP since 1918. However, the bill was stalled by a lone senator.

While Well-Barnett died in 1930, the campaign to eradicate anti-Black violence continues – even the goal of outlawing lynching. And while lynchings do not occur in thousands as they did during the Wells-Barnett era, lynchings and anti-Black violence still occur. This is where we must take up the mantle in the twenty-first century. As Christians, we must spread the gospel of justice. Through our Congress, we have a unique opportunity to finally outlaw these barbaric, White supremacist practices; to honor the legacy of Black leaders and ancestors who came before us; and to earn the respect of future generations. Like Well-Barnett, we as Christians must utilize our own voices and our own platforms to inform, educate, and agitate others regarding the injustice we see and employ solutions to stop injustice.