Sunday July 14, 2013: The morning after the "not guilty" verdict of George Zimmerman

"Today's service gives us a lot to think about – from Mr. Rogers' neighborhood – a place where we are intentionally looking for a neighbor – to our media presentation of places where we would just as soon not look for a neighbor – to our scripture passage with the question, "who is my neighbor". This parable has many layers to it and as we peel them away we recognize that there is not an easy answer. That question has the unspoken question of, "who is not my neighbor"? Who is it ok to exclude from my neighborhood?"

The above is how I was to begin the "talk back" portion of our worship service today. But I couldn't. Though it remained an appropriate statement, even in light of the "not guilty" verdict of the Zimmerman trial, I could not speak the words. I was and remain heart broken and angry.

When I woke up this morning – not knowing about the verdict, having not listened to the news – it felt like a typical Sunday morning. I was preparing myself for the parts of the worship service I was asked to lead. However, when I got to church and opened up my iPad to read again some reflections on today's lectionary passage, I saw the postings on Facebook and my world turned upside down as I broke down in tears. There are so many implications as a result of that verdict. Trauma and pain and hopelessness are activated in my heart and many other black mothers and families by that verdict. Though there had been some less than perfect happenings during this trial, I was totally unprepared for this man to totally get away with taking a life. I'm shocked and quite frankly pissed off. And so in tears I shared my pain with the congregation at Broadway UMC, knowing that the type of work we have done and continue to do in that faith community – who names itself an anti-racist congregation – I knew we would be able to speak truth, shed tears and hold one another as we begin our healing process.

As a member and co-convener of CWACM, I feel it is crucial that I make a statement that addresses the injustice of that verdict. We are a movement that are called to shine light on injustices of all types be it racial, economic, sexual orientation, disability... whatever and whoever has been slighted or excluded we are to call it out loudly and boldly; with truth and passion and anger and action.

And so as I sit with this travesty and miscarriage of justice I am reminded of the African-American anthem by James Weldon Johnson, "God of our weary years, God of our silent tears, Thou who has brought us thus far on the way…keep us forever in the path, we pray."

That is my prayer today, that weary as I am, weary as we are, may we remember that God has brought us this far and that the next step to freedom, however it comes to me, to us as a movement, to the world we must be ready to stay the path, no matter how rugged and claim that freedom for all.

Let's keep each other in prayer and lift up Trayvon Martin's friends and family and all young black men whose very survival is threatened by this verdict.

About the Author

Rev. Vernice Thorn

Rev. Vernice L. Thorn, MA, LPC is an ordained clergywoman of Church Within A Church Movement (CWACM); a national organization whose focus is the intersections of oppression. Vernice is a retired pastor whose ministry continues to be one of welcome and inclusivity.

Vernice’s passion is finding harmony in life as ...