Local faith leaders promote peace, healing in wake of violent protests in Cleveland

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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WJW) – “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate only love can do that,” said Pastor R.A. Vernon of The Word Church in Cleveland.

He invoked the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Sunday’s sermon as the city woke up to the aftermath of what started out as peaceful demonstrations over the death of George Floyd.

“The reason I went to the protest yesterday was to make sure there was a sense of love while also having a real sense of justice on our mind,” he said.

Greater Cleveland clergy leaders had powerful messages this Pentecost Sunday. 

“Part of the spirit of Pentecost is captured in the spirit of a Greek word that is called parrhesia which means bold speech. That’s what Peter was able to do on the day of Pentecost, that’s what we need today,” said Rev. Marvin McMickle. of Antioch Baptist Church in Cleveland.

Rev. Courtney Clayton Jenkins of the South Euclid United Church of Christ said, “I believe that we become empowered to do something when Christ helps us to breathe, then we are empowered like the disciples to take action against injustice.”

The rioting and looting in other cities also came to Cleveland, echoing the Hough riots half a century ago.

“The violence tends to overshadow the whole point and folks end up not talking about George Floyd or the protests concerning his death,” said McMickle.

Jenkins also condemns the violence but is understanding. “I wish that people would get it through peace.”

To her, the COVID-19 pandemic only accentuates the pain. “I think a lot of what we saw yesterday was our crying out for a community out of a place of isolation.”

Vernon brought his two sons and says he was glad that the peaceful part was so diverse. 

“To see more whites standing for justice, that’s what it takes if we’re going to heal the land.”

As to the role of these pastors. “The role of clergy is to bridge the gap. The role of clergy is to be the voice of ethics,” said Jenkins. 

“I think the role of the clergy is to legitimize the concerns of the people but to caution them that there are ways to protest that elevate your cause, there are ways to protest that can endanger not just your cause but your life,” said McMickle.

In Jenkin’s sermon Sunday, she asked Jesus to breathe the Holy Spirit on the nation and world for empowerment when too many are saying “I can’t breathe.”

“Twas the night before Pentecost, and the nation burned and the children asked why is it burning and we said because racism is running amuck.”

Early Sunday the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland released a statement asking people to join together in prayer.

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