Missouri churches reconciling legacy of slavery and moving forward

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ST. LOUIS, MO- It’s the dark shadow of America that still follows millions of Black people every day.

There have been all types of potential solutions to rectify what happened for over 400 years.

Some say reparations may be the answer, while others believe it starts with coming face to face with the troubled past.

“Allowing yourself to go to that deep place of pain and regret that this brought up and horror,” Junie Ewing, a bridge pastor with the Presbyterian Church, said.

Last October, 16 congregations loaded up in buses and headed to Montgomery, Alabama for a reality check they were not prepared for at the Legacy Museum.

Especially, when Ewing saw a photo of what appeared like a church family having a picnic.

“Everybody’s there having this great time and then you see in the top left corner of the picture, there’s these black legs hanging down,” Ewing described emotionally. “They’re all there to celebrate the lynching of this black man and they’re happy and you’re saying where is the Jesus in this.”

Moved by what they witnessed; the group drove back home to start where all forgiveness begins – with an apology.

“It was the church that were not only complicit in slavery, but the continued oppression of the African American community,” Cedric Porter, a pastor at Third Presbyterian Church, said. “So therefore, to get it right, we must first acknowledge our role in it and begin to correct that.”

Encouraged by his denomination board approving and providing an apology, he’s hopeful now is the time for real dialogue.

“What’s been withheld is resources,” he said. “So the resources that have plagued out community have also plagued our church. It makes us anemic to providing the necessary resources for our community.”

Ewing is already implementing steps to address underlying issues with the church and there are plans to take a group of teenagers on the trip as well.

But she’s clear – her actions are but a small piece to the bigger puzzle.

“That’s not something I have the power to do, but as one of many,” Ewing paused. “It’ll happen.”

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