Faith, fathers & families key to Baltimore recovery

by Kimberly Pennington , National Correspondent |

(REUTERS/Jim Bourg)Pastor Gabriel Churn of West Baltimore's Union Temple Congregation is one of many city clergy praying for peace.

BALTIMORE, Md. (Christian Examiner) -- Rev. Milton Williams, pastor of New Life Evangelical Baptist Church, said the chaos, which has gripped Baltimore since the death of Freddie Gray who died while in the custody of city police, has changed life "as we know it," but that the aftermath of the riots offers a chance to reach out to the community in the name of Jesus.

Milton told Christian Examiner Christians need to see the "tremendous opportunity for Christ to be exalted in the midst of the suffering, the sadness."

He described how everything about daily living in Baltimore has virtually come to a halt.

"Malls have closed down. Stores have closed down. The stadium has closed down. Schools have closed down. The state militia or National Guard is on the streets. There's a curfew from 10 pm – 5 am. Our lives have suddenly changed," he said.

But for Williams, these changes are not without purpose.

"For me, it is God getting our attention. We have grown so distant from God, so far from His principles, and in my opinion God is saying 'Enough is enough, and I know just how to get your attention,' he offered. "I believe God is saying, 'I know how to remove the tremendous blessings that we have grown accustomed to.'

"Stop and recognize that God has to be included in everything that we do because without God, there is nothing—absolute chaos. So at this point," he added, "God has forced our city to include prayer as a national standard. All over Baltimore, the word is prayer. All over Baltimore: 'Where is the church? Where are the ministers because we need prayer?'"

Williams said priorities have changed with the crisis.

"Prior to this week, we had a constant dose of Mr. Bruce Jenner's transition," he observed. "All that's disappeared from the front page, and now it's the suffering and the pain of the destruction all around us – buildings on fire, the system being torn apart by violence, and no real answers.

"All of a sudden the reality of who God is, the necessity of prayer, the necessity of the church has become emboldened," he continued. "Now the ministers in Baltimore are walking the streets calling on Almighty God."

He said "the powers that be" have had to adjust to the fact that they do not have all the answers and now are beginning to realize there is "one Person that we have ignored" in looking for solutions.

"God has broken into our schedules, our agenda. For me, God is saying, 'No more. You're going to listen whether you want to or not,'" he confessed.

Williams said he was enormously grateful "there has not been more destruction" because for a while it looked like "the entire city of Baltimore" might be burned down.

For him, a simple prescription of faith, fathers and families is the way for the city to move forward.

"One sure way to help is to return prayer into the schools. It is the youth, the young people, who are leading the violent acts, yet we are denied being able to pray with our children in school as a standard," he exclaimed. "The family is the power and the resource that we have to fight all of this, and the family has to go back to the family altar."

"We must read our children the Word of God if we want to see our children become the people that we know that they can be, not looters and rioters. But it takes a greater force than the philosophy of humanism. We must include what God says," he insisted.

"I'm encouraging my congregants, particularly the dads, the fathers in the homes, to wrap their arms around the family and pray with their family over these coming days," Williams said. "Don't stop praying with your families and thanking God that he spared us just one more day – that He brought us through this horrific night. Just gather with your families and call on God."

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