In Wake of Killings, Riots, Episcopal Churches Give Mothers Day Special Focus

by | May 6, 2015

In the wake of the violent deaths of black men and boys in encounters with police across the country, and in response to the unrest these deaths have engendered, churches across the Episcopal Diocese of Washington are dedicating Mother’s Day to “mothers who live with the daily fear of losing their children to violence and the children themselves,” said Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde.

More than a dozen women of color, including a former District of Columbia police officer, a prominent theologian and the first woman ordained a bishop in the Episcopal Church, will preach at churches in the District and suburban Maryland, while five parishes, including Church of the Atonement in southeast Washington, will hold public processions through local streets.

In all some 40 churches will participate in All Mothers’ Children, a day of prayer and witness that includes spiritual and educational components.

“Should anyone ask why we are taking these actions,” Budde wrote to her diocese, “please say this:  Until the killing of black and brown mothers’ sons becomes as important to the rest of the country as the killing of white mothers’ sons, we who follow Jesus cannot rest.”

The preachers include:

the Rev. Gayle Stewart-Fisher, deacon and former D. C. police officer, who will preach at Calvary Church, 509 I Street NE at 10 a.m. Fisher, who has taught at Johns Hopkins and the University of Maryland, has written about the death ofEric Garner and Freddie Gray.

the Rev. Kelly Brown Douglas, author of the new book “Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies and the Justice of God,” who will preach at Washington National Cathedral at 9 and 11:15 a.m. Brown Douglas participated in the Cathedral’s forum on race relations in the wake of the riots in Ferguson, Missouri.

Bishop Barbara Harris, the first woman ordained a bishop in the Episcopal Church and the worldwide Anglican Communion, who will preach at Grace Church, Silver Spring at 10:30 a.m.

Esperanza Conesds, whose son came to the United States to escape violence in Guatemala and was assassinated on the streets of that country after being deported, will preach at Misa Alegria, the Spanish language community that meets at St. Stephen and the Incarnation Episcopal Church, 1525 Newton Street NW at 5:15 p.m. 

At the Church of the Atonement, 5073 52nd St SE, the Rev. Jocelyn Irving, the longest serving black female rector in the diocese, will preach at the 8:30 and 11 At 9:45 a.m. parishioners will process through the neighborhood handing out red ribbons with the words “Black Moms Love. Black Moms Cry.”

Members of St. Mark’s Church on Capitol Hill will process from the church at 3rd and A Streets SE to offer prayers at the U. S. Capitol from 12:30 p. m. to 1 p. m. St. Thomas Parish, 1772 Church Street NW, will also hold a procession beginning after the 11 a.m. service. In Silver Spring, members of St. Mark’s Church will walk through their neighborhood after the morning service.

In addition to Irving, three other African-American mothers who are also priests will preach at Episcopal churches in southeast D.C. They are: the Rev. Paula Clark, St. Philip’s, Anacostia; the Rev. Rondesia Jarrett, Holy Communion and the Rev. Caron A. Gwynn, St. Timothy’s.

In a letter to the diocese, Budde asked special prayers for mothers “who fear that their children will become the victims of gang violence or police brutality; who worry for their children serving in the military or as police officers; who send their sons and daughters on the dangerous journey across the United States’ border to spare them the fate of violence in their native countries; whose children are trapped in the criminal justice system or who have already lost their children to violence and war.”

The bishop wrote: “All mothers worry about their children’s well being. Yet we cannot deny that the painful truth that children of color are at far greater risk than white children in every category of danger and vulnerability.  On Mother’s Day, I ask that we join in prayer and collective witness on behalf of all mothers’ children, and especially children of color who are disproportionately at risk in our land.”

 Editor’s note:  For information on any of these worship services or processions, please contact Jim Naughton of Canticle Communications at [email protected] or 202.288.5125