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Pastoral Letter - Kent March for Solidarity

This Sunday, I want Harmony Springs Christian Church to be empty. We'll bump the scholarship presentations to next week.

I can’t, with integrity, preach a sermon when we have an opportunity to live the best sermon possible together. The sermon we need to live is one that confronts racism head on and supports our Christian brothers and sisters who face its sting each day.

Racism keeps getting closer and closer to home. This summer it entered our radar on June 17, 2015 in Charleston, SC where 9 black men and women were murdered during a Bible Study at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) church, a historic black church. Then black churches, mostly AME, were being set on fire. Now, closer to home, a white officer in Ohio shoots an unarmed black man in Cincinnati.

For me, as a foster parent to three black boys (ages 3,4,and 6) the sting of racism lives especially close to home. It lives in my home. As a white man I get to choose whether or not I want to confront racism. The boys who live in my home do not. I’ve been pulled over twice in Ohio for not having a front license plate while driving a car we purchased in Arizona (where they don’t require front plates).

I am still alive. But I am white.

I refuse to believe this is the America we want. Racism is getting too close to home.

It’s in my country.

It’s in my state.

It’s in my home.

It’s in me.

Enough is enough.

The fact is it’s always been here. As one Harmony Springs elder wrote, ‘the news/media has given us plenty of warning letting us know that racism is taking and hurting lives.’ At General Assembly Disciples of Christ passed a resolution calling for the Disciples of Christ to respond in solidarity with AME and DOC black and minority churches. In God’s timing, First Christian Church of Kent has taken the lead by planning a March for Solidarity this Sunday August 2nd at 10 am. Our Regional Pastor, Dr. Bill Edwards, has asked Rev. Lin Barnett, district Elder and Harmony Springs member to speak representing the Christian Church (DOC) in Ohio.

I’d like to invite you, friends and family of Harmony Springs, to join our family in worshiping and marching with FCC Kent to stand together for justice. I'd like for Harmony Springs to be empty on Sunday. I'd like for the church to leave the building. If ‘marching’ frightens you I promise it’ll be OK. Read about the victims in Charleston, look at the devastation to black churches in our country, watch the video of Sam DuBose shooting and think about how frightened we must be for the black children we care for. Think about Sam DuBose and people of color who face racism everyday.

Is it getting too close to home?

It’s time to empty the church pews and stand with our black brothers and sisters.

Our AME counterparts are calling this a historic moment they have not seen before: white churches seeking out black churches in a movement of solidarity. We have an opportunity to make history.

Let's empty the church on Sunday and take it to Kent. Lets take it to our brothers and sisters at Spelman Chapel AME.

Let's reclaim our homes in love, Pastor Joel


Although the views above are solely Pastor Joel Engmans the Elders of Harmony Springs have voted to move church to Kent on Sunday to bear witness and be supportive of our Black brothers and sisters in Christ.


FCC Kent, located at 335 W Main St, Kent, OH 44240, has invited us to join them in worship beginning at 10 am followed by a March for Solidarity at 11 AM to join Spelman Chapel AME, located at 910 Walnut Street Kent, OH 44240, in worship. Parking is available at FCC Kent, Christ Episcopal Church, and the Kent Public Library. Wear your Disciples of Christ or Harmony Springs gear as a visible sign to our community that we are a movement for wholeness! Those who are not able to march may join us at Spelman and use street parking as it is available. Upon arrival we will share in worship and praise God together. FCC Kent is Wheelchair accessible, but Spelman Chapel does have a few steps to climb.

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