FAITH IN THE STORM: A SPOTLIGHT SERIES ON MISSIONAL LIVING - Brek Cockrell
For the last few weeks, we’ve looked at how different people in our church are living missionally during this pandemic. But, as we examine the current landscape of what is happening in our country, it’s important that we take an opportunity to see what it can look like for us as Christ-followers to fight against the injustices that exist. Following the events that took place last weekend, Pastor Brek Cockrell, of Renovation Church (a Kingdom Come partner), took some time to think and pray through how he can be a part of the change that needs to happen.
“Renovation is predominantly a church of color. Our largest ethnicity group is African American. So we're about 45% African American, about 25% Puerto Rican and about 30% White. So, as the pastor of a multi-ethnic church, and the journey that we've been on for a decade now, I have a different perspective on these things. Along the way, I’ve had hard conversations around race, really since the Freddie Gray riots in Baltimore in 2013. I've had different voices come on our stage along the way, but I never really articulated anything myself. Partly because I just didn't know quite what to say. I didn't feel like I could articulate things in a way that would make sense or maybe I didn't want to say the wrong things. You know, all of us have been there."
Through all of that Brek was feeling the pain and hardship from those on his staff team. "I have a staff that's multi-ethnic and there are times where we've been in meetings, that turn into broken meetings, because one staff member after another staff member talk about the pain of prejudice and racism that has happened to them right then and there, not 10 years ago. I’ve heard someone say, 'At work this week, this is what my coworker, who goes to this church, these are the racist things they just said behind my back and it makes me angry.’ Kimera, who’s on our music team had somebody calling her the 'N word' in a parking lot the day before, yelling and screaming at her, calling her that with his little daughter in hand. When you start to experience those things in real life, as a white person, it starts to unpack a lot of things. So, with all of that being said, going into what happened last week, I was just texting all of my brothers and sisters of color asking, 'Are you okay?' I mean, this is brutal. This is awful.”
As the week went on, the feeling of needing to do something continued to weigh on Brek. "Thursday rolls into Friday and my mind's all over the place, trying to pre-record our message for Sunday and I can't even concentrate. What am I going to say? But we got it done Saturday, mid-afternoon, and I had basically taken a book that I read last year called ‘Woke Church', by Eric Mason and decided that we would do a series on it. It’s a small book that really highlights the urgent call for Christians in America to confront racism and injustice. I woke up Sunday morning, and I was just trying to get my thoughts together. I was thinking that we need to come together as a church, as a community, but we can’t gather. I was starting to overthink it. Then I thought, 'What if we just met at the zoo, and did a prayer walk today?'. I sent a text to my elder team, some leaders in the church and some pastor friends from around the city, about going down to Delaware Park at noon and opened it up for anyone that wanted to come could join me. I didn't know if there'd be 10 or 15 or 20 people."
By the time noon rolled around, there was a fairly large group of people, from churches all over WNY, ready to pray. "I didn't want it to become a platform for anything or anybody. I just wanted it to be a moment where we came together, and we could just safely walk together, and that’s what we did. I said to Dina Thompson, who is one of our elders, and is also the Founder and Executive Director of the Erie County Restorative Justice Coalition, ‘Hey Dina, hop on my truck bed, and you be the face of this thing. Let's give a challenge. Lead us in a word of prayer and and tell everybody to walk with somebody that doesn't look like them, get to know them'. From there we just went, and came back around, we got a big picture and sung a song. That was kind of it, it was a special moment. It was really just a prompting from a brother in Christ, who just asked, 'Hey, where is the leadership?', and I just simply said, ‘We can do something’. Sometimes we overthink what we can do and realize that even if 10 people came together and walked around, with prayerful consideration, and just talked and shared, that would be powerful. And so that was really the heart and soul of it.”
Although the church can’t gather right now, Brek saw the opportunity to prayerfully do something about the injustices in our culture. “In the middle of the walking, it dawned on me that we haven’t been able to gather, and I'm talking with people that I haven't seen for three months and it's safe. We've been talking about re-entry, well this is our re-entry."