GREAT FALLS — Pastors from several churches in Great Falls will be hosting a forum called “All Things Not Black: The State of Race in America” on Thursday, June 11 at 7:00 P.M.
It will be at the Alexander Temple Church of God in Christ (3726 5th Avenue North), and the pastors are reaching out to officials such as Great Falls Mayor Bob Kelly and other civic leaders in town. Due to social distancing guidelines, event organizers are asking that if members of the public want to participate, they tune in virtually and ask questions during the open Q & A session at the end of the event. The event is scheduled to be livestreamed on the church's YouTube channel, and one official told MTN that he believed it might be on Facebook as well.
They hope that members of the public will submit questions and topics of discussion for the forum.
Discussions will focus on current events that have taken place as a result of the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25, the protests and riots that have been ongoing around the country since then, and what the future looks like for the African-American community as they try to make a change in America.
“Being community leaders and pastors ourselves, obviously African-American, we felt like we had to say something,” explained Greater Faith Church of the Open Door Pastor Robert Lewis. “At least speak to the subject.”
As an African-American man living in Great Falls, Pastor Lewis says that his interactions with local law enforcement officials has been positive, but he still acknowledges some race relation issues within his local community.
“In order for somebody to reach out and help somebody else that’s different, let’s say if it’s color, if it’s some type of handicap, whatever it is, the idea is not seeing that. If I’m going to help you, if I’m going to respond to you, then I have to see you as you are, not as I perceive you to be,” Lewis explained. “Perceptions go a long way in this, but if I sit on a pew in a church, and I see you come in and you look funny to me, or your clothes don’t look right, or I don’t like your hairstyle, or I don’t like the way you talk, I don’t like your accent, and I let that prejudice my thoughts about you before I even get to know who you are, I’m already striking out.”
Lewis spoke at length about the protests around the nation. He said that he while he did not support the violence and looting that has occurred at several rallies across the country, he’s not surprised that it got to this point.
He went on to explain that for protesters and outspoken community members looking for a balance between unity and justice, he believes the answer is grace. “I think there is a middle ground, it’s called grace,” Lewis said. “Grace meets with justice, grace meets with mercy, grace meets with peace, it blends it all together. But we have to show grace. Grace is not an easy thing for us to demonstrate to another person.”
Lewis said he hopes that the protests and rallies will lead to people gathering around a table together, looking each other in the eye, and figuring out what needs to be done, how it can be done, and how to stop the cycle that the United States has been on for far too long.