WALDORF, Md.—Trinity Baptist Church, Waldorf, celebrated their cultural heritage with a late February weekend of special events, including a Friday night panel discussion with police officers, a movie night, and a cultural heritage Sunday celebrating Christian unity.
The Friday night panel included special guests Troy Berry, the first African American sheriff of Charles County; Clinton Police Assistant Commander Gilbert Bowling; Greg Moss, a 19-year veteran of the U.S. Capitol Police and member of Trinity Baptist Church; and Dakota Sweat, vice president of the Charles County NAACP.
Trinity Baptist Church Senior Pastor John Fariss said, “This is something near and dear to my heart.” Fariss shared he was a former police officer and served in Montgomery, Ala., in the 60’s. His father became a police officer in 1950. Both Fariss and his father saw the racial unrest of those days, especially the elder Farris who served for a time in Selma, Ala.
Trinity Baptist Youth Pastor Ebony Davis introduced the guests. “This panel is to bring more unity to our community. That’s what we want as the focus of this ‘cultural heritage’ week,” she said.
Pepe Rojo, pastor of Mision Sur de Maryland, shared concerns in the Hispanic community.
He said first generation Hispanics are very afraid of the police. Many are living illegally but their children were born in the United States.
Rojo said many Hispanics are also concerned about news showing police in various states entering homes and arresting Hispanics, some with violence. “Is that legal?” he asked.
“We don’t go rounding people up,” Berry said, adding however, that if there is an arrest for a criminal offense, and the person is in the country without citizenship, the police will make the authorities aware.
Regarding federal immigration agents and their activities, Berry said, “There is some debate whether its legal. It’s still being adjudicated.”
Fariss asked how the congregation as a church and community can help support officers as they deal with day-to-day stress that often manifests itself in substance abuse, infidelity and violence.
Berry commended the church for hosting the panel. “Officers must realize their best weapon is to communicate with citizens,” and he added, “to embrace the diversity of the community.” Berry also encouraged the use of conflict resolution training and strategies.
“There’s also a spiritual element,” he added.
Gilbert Bowling agreed, “If you don’t have faith, what you see as a law enforcement officer can make you go crazy.”
Greg Moss said, “Continue to pray. It’s the things you don’t see that will hurt you.”
Dakota Sweat also praised the church for hosting the panel. “This is a unique opportunity for communities to debunk what society is saying and what is being shown to you on TV.”
The next day, the church showed the movie, “Something the Lord Made,” which tells the story of Vivien Thomas, an African American janitor at Vanderbilt University in the 1930’s. Thomas became the assistant to a surgeon and went on to help perfect surgery known as “blue baby syndrome,” which paved the way for today’s heart by-pass surgeries. Thomas himself eventually became a surgeon.
During the movie time, members had to take cover from a strong storm. Ebony Davis laughed and said it was still a blessing. They sang hymns in the halls.
During Sunday’s service, Dr. Kevin Smith, Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware’s executive director, shared about unity in the body of Christ.
Referring to Ephesians 4:3, Smith said, “Endeavoring to keep the unity of spirit and the bond of peace takes work.
“We believe that God so loved the world, all kinds of people in every situation. If we believe that then we must walk steadily with the presupposition that God is going to work in people that are different than us. And we must see that as a manifestation of God’s glory.”
After the service, members gathered for a multicultural meal with a variety of food representing Ireland, Norway, Germany, India, Scotland, and other countries.