Baltimore pastor sees 'revival' in ashes of Southern Baptist Church

by Kimberly Pennington , National Correspondent |

(REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton)People stand outside the burned community center and apartments across the street from the Southern Baptist Church in Baltimore, Maryland April 28, 2015. Baltimore erupted in violence on Monday as hundreds of rioters looted stores, burned buildings and at least 15 police officers were injured following the funeral of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man who died after suffering a spinal injury in police custody. The riots broke out blocks from where the funeral of Gray took place and spread through much of west Baltimore.

BALTIMORE, Md. (Christian Examiner) -- "I see revival."

That was the response of Rev. Donte Hickman, pastor of Southern Baptist Church in Baltimore, Maryland, when asked by CNN what he saw when he viewed the rubble that once was 60 units of senior housing and a community center under construction by his congregation.

While a group of 60 church members stood across the street in tears watching the three-alarm blaze, Hickman repeated his optimism, saying again, "This fire is going to spark a revival," the Baltimore Sun reported.

Although the cause of the blaze still is under investigation, it occurred during a night of rioting and protests following a memorial service earlier in the day for Freddie Grey – a 25-year-old Baltimore resident who died from a spinal cord injury last week while in police custody.

Buildings and vehicles were charred, at least twelve police officer injured, six seriously, public schools closed, and a Baltimore Orioles-Chicago White Sox baseball game schedule for tonight cancelled. The National Guard has been called in and a 10:00 p.m. curfew instituted for the rest of the week.

Hickman, who tried to organize local pastors to hold a march for peace, had no idea why his church's senior center was targeted, but he explained his optimism to CNN:

"Tonight, I'm not about fixing blame. I'm about refocusing on how we rebuild. I see the opportunity to rebuild from the ashes. I see a church that's been resilient for over 80 years and for the past eight years seeking to put this $16 million investment in the community. I see us now coming back even bigger and better than before."

Several public figures also commented on the devastation in Baltimore.

Likely Republican presidential candidate and former Baltimore resident Ben Carson issued a statement calling on parents to take control of their children and protect them from exposure to "uncontrolled agitators" on the street.

"It is vital to remember that the best way to create positive change is through peaceful conversation and policy ideas that display a commitment to resolution. My thoughts and prayers are extended to those who are experiencing fear during this troubling time," he said in a statement released to the press. Carson is a retired surgeon from Baltimore's Johns-Hopkins University Hospital.

Gray's own family expressed shock and dismay at the violence. His mother Gloria Darden told reporters she wanted justice for her son but not in this way. His twin sister, Fredricka said, "My family wants to say, can you all please, please stop the violence? Freddie Gray would not want this."

Hickman told CNN he does not fear the violence, but sees it for its spiritual significance.

"I'm a man of faith," he said, "and I believe that every negative is just our opportunity to fight back with another positive."