Kunkletown church gathers for peace, prayer
Pastor Suzanne Brooks-Cope of St. Matthew’s UCC held a prayer vigil Sunday afternoon in response to the unrest in the country.
“Today is about prayers for peace, justice and healing during COVID-19,” she said to a group of 14 attendees.
She spoke of a school in Florida named for Nathan Bedford Forrest, a leader of the Ku Klux Klan. Its significant controversy led the school to eventually change its name.
They sang, prayed, shared stories and meditated during the 45-minute gathering. The church bells rang at the beginning of the vigil at 2 p.m. and then again at the end.
Other churches in the Penn Northeast Conference and throughout the nation held prayer vigils on Sunday, which was also Flag Day.
The United States flag was adopted June 14, 1777, by resolution of the Second Continental Congress.
Scott Brooks-Cope, director of pastoral care at Phoebe Ministries and the husband of Pastor Suzanne, shared a COVID-19 story first and then a story about racism.
“First some of the staff at Phoebe Wyncote become ill, then the residents,” he said.
Thirty-seven COVID residents from the Wyncote campus, near Philadelphia, were moved to the Phoebe Allentown campus by bus.
Three empty wings became COVID wings.
“The staff took really good care of them and 27 residents recovered, received graduation hats and returned to Wyncote. Sadly, 10 died at the Allentown campus,” he said.
The other story he shared was of a black pastor from Angola, who moved to the United States to escape poverty and have a better quality of life.
“He moved into a white neighborhood and got to know his neighbors. One day, a lady waved at him to come chat. While chatting, a police officer stopped to make sure the lady was OK,” Scott Brooks-Cope said.
The police officer was suspicious of this black man in a white neighborhood. The officer left. The pastor finished his chat and left.
While on the highway a few minutes later, the pastor was pulled over by the same cop.
To prove his innocence, “the pastor had to show his work ID badge,” Scott Brooks-Cope said.
Other attendees spoke about not realizing racism existed until they entered the military and lived side by side with brown and black soldiers.
“It was bizarre for me in a military family to experience racism. There is a diverse population,” Norm Burger said.
He spoke of a black friend in a reserve unit who was not shown any respect.
“We as white people don’t see it (racism) because we are not affected by it,” he said.
Burger told attendees that his first wife was black.
“I got prejudices from both sides of the family,” he said.
Pastor Suzanne Brooks-Cope then led a silent prayer and guided meditation. Attendees sat on the sidewalk, steps or grass and envisioned themselves taking a walk along their favorite path near their home or at the beach.
She said this place has a stream, and in the distance, someone is walking toward you.
“This is Jesus. He asks you to tell him your deepest concerns and longings for your family community and nation. Talk to him.”
Attendees sat there in silence, except for the birds chirping and a few cars passing by, for about eight minutes. They imagined their conversation with Jesus and then said goodbye.
They left their walking place and returned to the church lawn.
The vigil ended with the singing of “Let There be Peace on Earth.”
“Go in peace to love and serve the Lord,” she said during the benediction.