By Pastor Jermin…
Today, I am reminded of Sunday February 27th, 2000. It was the Sunday immediately following the acquittal of the 4 NYPD officers tried in the shooting death of Amadou Diallo, an unarmed 22 year old West African immigrant with no criminal record, who was mercilessly cut down in a hail of bullets that totaled 41 shots.
It was the last Sunday of ‘Black History Month’, and for ‘Special Music’ that day in church, Marilyn (Harewood) and I were to sing a Jazzy duet version of ‘Nature Boy’ (written by Eden Ahbez in 1947, recorded and made famous in 1948, by Nat King Cole)
We had worked on it for a couple of weeks, Dorsey ‘Rob’ Robinson had done his usual, he brought forth a flavorful, (and dangerously easy to sing) arrangement, and Marilyn and I had been having a ball. We were really looking forward to singing it, and it was a joyful anticipation.
But the verdict had changed all of that…
At that time, our growing church (The Christian Life Centre , now known as Christian Cultural Center) had long exceeded the limitations of the building we inhabited, and we were up to three (3) services per Sunday. As we went through the first service, there was a solemn, grieving, pregnant weight in the room, like the still before an explosion. Everyone felt it, a big leaden mass of rage, grief, frustration, loss and helplessness, and it seemed that there was no relief to be found… If the first service was like this, it was going to be a long, and wearying day.
Finally, the time for us to sing came. As we sang, we were into it, and it was good, but it was not in any way dealing with the real issue at hand… As we sang,
‘The greatest thing, that you will ever learn, is to LOVE and be LOVED in return’ , and began to tag on it, just as we had done every rehearsal before, suddenly
’41 shots can’t stop the love…’ popped into my head and out of my mouth. Immediately,
41 shots can’t stop the love…’
it was as though a bomb went off in the room…
The grievous, heavy weight was released, and an overflow of tears, shouts, cries, and much more erupted all around the building. Marilyn, brilliant singer that she is, went right with me, and as I sang again and again that those 41 shots could not stop THE LOVE, Marilyn began to scat gunshots. It was a moment that reassured us all that though it appeared that, once again, our lives did not matter to the governing society, we were ALL precious to the ONE whose LOVE really matters. Once again, as promised by Jesus, the Holy Spirit was The Spirit of Truth, the Comforter, and Counselor, and as we sang, now 1000 voices strong, He let us all Know that HE was there, Never to leave, Never to Forsake, Always to guide, guard and direct.
The Second and Third services were exactly the same, with each celebration growing more powerful, and the day ended up to be one that was unforgettable for all the right reasons.
It is my prayer that He shows Himself strong today, wherever there is grief, rage, frustration loss and helplessness, and that as promised, He turns mourning into dancing.