On Friday, July 8th about 9:00 AM, I was driving to our poor congregation in East Lake, Family Worship Center. My purpose was to work with Pastor Stephen, on some liturgical matters. Stephen is a Tanzanian by birth. He and I have become very close friends during the last decade.
While driving, I was filled with a ‘9/11’ kind of shock and pain over the massacre that had taken place hours before in Dallas. Suddenly, I had a conviction. It arose within me without mental or emotional process. It was simple, clear, and absolute: “Go with Stephen to Dallas. Carry a cross together in solidarity with the afflicted praying for racial peace and healing of wounds in Dallas and in the nation.”
Upon greeting Stephen, I told this to him. He immediately responded: “We must go!” We dropped everything and prepared to leave. We had no material means to accomplish this. I made one phone call to a family I love. The couple told me they were in sorrow all morning over the Dallas tragedy. They said, “We want you to go. This is of the Lord. We will supply whatever you need.”
We got the first flight available and arrived in Dallas at 10:00 am on Saturday. We needed a truck to transport the 12 ft cross we intended to construct. There was no adequate pickup available at any of the rental offices at the DFW airport. While we were trying to figure out our next move my cell phone rang. It was a friend of mine from the 1970ies, George Getschow. He heard from a mutual friend that I was to be in Dallas. Immediately he told us: I will bring my pickup truck for you can use, adding that he wanted us to stay at his home the two nights we were in Dallas. It felt as though the sea was parting to make a way for us.
We drove to the nearest Home Depot, bought boards, 2” by 6” and set to work constructing our 12 ft by 6 ft cross. Remarkably, the staff let us use all the tools we needed to complete our task.
We drove to Dealey Plaza, as George had suggested. Once we parked, I felt a chill in my blood as I recognized the grassy knoll and the book warehouse…we were at the very location where President John F Kennedy was assassinated by another terrorist in 1963. We began praying for peace and healing right there and proceeded to carry the cross to the place where the officers were the five officers were murdered. The crime scene was a large cordoned off area of some six square blocks. We decided to walk the entire perimeter. As we marched, we stopped to pray with police officers. Many, very many, people came up to us, some to thank or take pictures or even to pray with us. Some begged us to let them help carry the cross. There was much emotion in many prayers. One man came up to us with this comment: “You have no idea how moving it us for us to see you, a black man and a white man carrying the cross together.”
Toward evening, tired but very happy, we drove to George’s home where we were received with extraordinary hospitality. That very night the police, already feeling under siege, had to lock down the police station because of a bomb threat. Learning this, we decided that on the next day, Sunday, we would carry the cross to that police station.
We began our trek by carrying the cross around the entire police installation. We ended at the front entrance to the police station. Hundreds of people were there milling around the make-shift memorial while individuals paid respects to a large group of police officers gathered near the door. As we approached, all eyes turned to the sight of the cross being carried by a black man and a white man. The police asked our what is our intention. “We are here because we love you. We have come only to pray with you, to pray for you, to be in solidarity with you at this time of tragedy.”
Spontaneously, the officers took our hands and formed a circle of prayer. I suddenly spoke this unprepared word, “The Lord Jesus Christ declares from heaven: ‘My black children, love my white children. My white children, love my black children. I was crucified for all of you equally. You are all one just as I and my Father are One.”
Pastor Stephen began praying with inspired intensity and with the gift of tears. All in that circle wept as Stephen prayed for comfort and healing for the fallen, their loved ones, and for Dallas and the nation.
We laid our cross there at the memorial, knowing that we had now completed the work for which we had been sent to Dallas.
George Getschow, our host in Dallas, is a noted author and professor of journalism. After we left, he composed a beautiful expression of what our mission to Dallas meant to him. To see his short piece, click here.
The Rt. Rev. William Wilson is an Assisting Bishop in the Anglican Diocese of the South.
Stephen Manyama will be ordained in the Anglican Diocese of the South next month.