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'We Reject Hatred': A Sunday Morning in Boise's St. Paul Baptist Church 

click to enlarge Around 100 people gathered at the St. Paul Baptist Church on Sunday morning, and prayed for the victims of the church shooting in South Carolina last week. - JESSICA MURRI
  • Jessica Murri
  • Around 100 people gathered at the St. Paul Baptist Church on Sunday morning, and prayed for the victims of the church shooting in South Carolina last week.

On the overcast morning of Sunday, June 21, around 100 people filtered into St. Paul Baptist Church on 14th and Bannock streets. The mood was cheery and upbeat as the choir warmed up to the piano. Church goers exchanged handshakes with old friends and complete strangers.

St. Paul Baptist grew out of religious meetings in the homes of what was then called Boise's "colored" population in the early 1900s. After several moves around the city, a church was built at 124 Broadway Ave. in the early 1920s. By the early 1990s, St. Paul's had reached capacity and the current church on Bannock was donated by Capital Christian Center. The original church building, placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982, is today home to the Idaho Black History Museum.

The worship on June 21 was filled with passion. The choir sang and clapped and danced and swayed with the pianist and drummer. Even hymns that started slow gained momentum and left the church ringing with excitement. 

But after a handful of prayers and songs, the church's pastor, Dr. Michael J. Ross, Sr., took the altar and the service turned somber.

"A man came to a church in South Carolina a few days ago, and he shot nine people to death," he said, pausing for several seconds. "While they were in a prayer meet."

click to enlarge Pastor Dr. Michael J. Ross, Sr. delivered a message to his congregation on Sunday, June 21, instructing them to pray for the families of the victims in the South Carolina shooting, as well as pray for the alleged shooter himself. - JESSICA MURRI
  • Jessica Murri
  • Pastor Dr. Michael J. Ross, Sr. delivered a message to his congregation on Sunday, June 21, instructing them to pray for the families of the victims in the South Carolina shooting, as well as pray for the alleged shooter himself.
The incident Ross referred to took place on June 17, when 21-year-old white man Dylan Storm Roof allegedly shot and killed nine people inside the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, a historic black church in Charleston, S.C.

Police have called it a hate crime.

"People have been asking, 'What should be our response?'" Ross said to his congregation. "Well, I'm glad you ask. Based on the word of God, the Bible says in the 12th chapter in the Book or Romans, not to be overcome by evil, but to overcome evil."

"Yes, my, my," shouted a member of the congregation.

"And to overcome evil with good," Ross continued. "And the Bible also tells us that God is the judge. He will do the judging. Amen. So that should be our response. Amen?"

"Amen," the assembly called out in unison.

Ross told the church that their response should be to pray for the victims, to pray for the families and to pray even for the perpetrator.

"Now, I'm going to let that be enough said," he concluded. "We're here today to worship God. In spite of the loss of nine lives—the senseless, useless loss of nine lives, we are going to praise God anyhow."

Here, the mood of the room started to shift. The crowd got louder, shouting affirmations to Ross's message. The pastor, his voice rising and falling with the energy of the worshipers, said: 
"We will rejoice and we will have joy anyhow. [Our joy] is not contingent on circumstances. It's not contingent on people and it's not contingent on things. The joy we have is in the confidence of the Lord. Internally, we know that no matter what's going on out there, it is well. It is well. It is well, it is well with our soul. 
"It is well with our soul," he finished, and the church broke into applause. The pianist struck the keys and Ross gave everyone an invitation to greet each other, say hello and continue their worship together.

One more prayer was said for those killed and injured in South Carolina. Rev. Frank Pinkney, Jr.—whose surname by coincidence bears a striking similarity to Pastor and state Sen. Clementa Pinckney, who was among those slain at Emanuel AME—asked the congregation to again pray for those affected by the shooting, as well as the alleged shooter himself.

In his prayer, he asked God to "replace the trouble of his [Roof's] mind with peace. Replace the hatred in his heart with love."

"We reject hatred on this morning," Pinkney said.

The worship continued, with a sermon focused on honoring the father and being grateful for life.


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