S.C. shooting unites Metro Detroit church, synagogue
The deadly South Carolina church shooting this week is spurring a unique occasion in Metro Detroit’s religious community.
Instead of a rabbi heading the Friday night services at Temple Beth El in Bloomfield Hills, Rev. Kenneth Flowers from the Greater New Mt. Moriah Missionary Baptist Church in Detroit is delivering a sermon.
Then, on Sunday, synagogue Rabbi Mark Miller will return the favor and deliver remarks at the church on the city’s north side.
As the Wednesday attack on an historic black house of worship sparks debate nationwide about lingering racial divisions, the two local leaders are striving to unite their congregants as well as offer an interfaith model for strengthening communities.
“Even though what happened in South Carolina is miles from us, we’re still interconnected and dependent on each other,” Flowers said. “We have to … let people understand that we are one family: the human family. We come from one blood. We need to recognize that whether you’re white, black, yellow or brown, all of our blood is the same color: red.”
On Thursday, Jewish officials in the region condemned the incident at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, which left nine dead.
“Murdering people at prayer in a house of worship is especially heinous and cowardly,” Dr. Richard Krugel, president of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Metropolitan Detroit, said in a statement. “While the police investigation will focus on the shooter and his motive, we will struggle – especially with our Black friends and neighbors in metro Detroit – to understand what we can do in our own community to confront the racism that divides us and too often leads to violence and injustice.”
Outrage over the tragedy spurred Millers and Flowers to come together.
The rabbi and pastor already had a connection through the InterFaith Leadership Council of Metropolitan Detroit. Their worship centers also shared a longstanding relationship — including teaming up to bring Coretta Scott King, wife of the slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., to Metro Detroit in 2000, Flowers said.
African American and Jewish communities have also historically united during the civil rights movement, he said, so “it’s only fitting that we stand together” now.
Members of each congregation are invited to attend the Friday and Sunday services.
The goal is to “build relationship and building a stronger connection so that in the future we won’t have these things coming up as much,” Miller said. “If we only do this when there’s something in the news then we’re just reacting. We’re not building something better.”
The effort is admirable and can help guide the future, said Bob Bruttell, chairman of the InterFaith Leadership Council of Metropolitan Detroit. “Friendship based on common goals and common needs is the best way to combat hate.”