Metro Detroit faithful ‘stand together in solidarity’

Mike Martindale
The Detroit News

Detroit — Services at Greater New Mount Moriah Missionary Baptist Church were slightly different Sunday.

There were the usual potted lilies decorating the pulpit area where a white-robed choir sweetly sang “Faith of Our Fathers” and smiling church members welcomed hundreds of friends, neighbors and, on this Sunday — some complete strangers to the services.

The mood was celebratory, in the spirit of love and worship, but also somber, in the remembrance of a tragedy in South Carolina four days earlier when nine members of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church were slain by gunman Dylann Roof, 21.

Authorities have called the shooting a hate crime and are investigating whether a racist screed posted on the Internet was written by Roof.

Joining in prayers at Mount Moriah were Rabbi Mark Miller and several dozen members of his Temple Beth El of Bloomfield Hills, who traveled to the Detroit church, founded in 1925, to show their support.

On Friday, the Rev. Kenneth James Flowers of Mount Moriah and several members of his congregation took part in Sabbath services at Temple Beth El, the oldest Jewish congregation in Detroit.

“We stand together in solidarity,” Flowers said, as he and the rabbi exchanged hugs several times during the service.

Miller, accompanied by his wife and sons, said his family had given him the “greatest Father’s Day gift” by attending the Sunday service with him.

From the pulpit the rabbi described the Charleston shooting as an act of “anger, bigotry and evil” by a young man who felt he had acted in the name of God. “Not my God,” he said, adding that the shooter “grew up with stories and images which twisted him.”

“The world is filled with people dividing us, telling us we are different,” he said from the pulpit. “But this church and my synagogue are becoming united over this (event) and showing each other how much we are the same.”

At one point, the rabbi quoted from the New Testament: “Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer. ...”

“I don’t often quote from the New Testament,” he said. “But that’s a pretty good one.”

Flowers said he expects various religious groups to “strategize” over the tragedy and help make “Detroit, Michigan and the world a better place.”

Jerry and Vivian Cole, two Temple Beth El members, said they felt it was important to visit Mount Moriah on Sunday.

“Some of them came to our synagogue on Friday and we reciprocated,” said Jerry Cole. “My wife marched in Selma, Alabama, in the ’60s and we wanted to be here today.”

“There are always going to be haters,” said Vivian Cole. “Unfortunately, we live at a time where guns are available and being used as weapons by people for various reasons. The times are more complex and there are people who feel they can do whatever they want.”

In the wake of rising hate crimes reported nationwide, Flowers said, bridging differences through an interfaith exchange is even more significant. “There is a group of us that will not (let) bitterness divide us or come between us. And we will stand together, we will fight together and pray together.”

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