On May 14 a shooting at Tops supermarket in Buffalo, New York, left 10 dead and three others injured. Investigators have called the shooting a racially motivated hate crime targeting African Americans.
The massacre has brought believers together across racial, generational, socioeconomic and denominational lines to mourn the victims and love their neighbors in Jesus’ name.
As a result of some inner-city stores closing due to copycat threats, Michael Flannery, director of missions for Frontier Baptist Association, worked to deliver food in partnership with Mark Hamilton, pastor/elder of Faithful Stones Church, an evangelical congregation near the crime scene.
‘We need prayer’
“This event has struck all of us in the deepest sense of the word of grief as we see what took place,” Flannery lamented.
“We need prayer relating to going forward and meeting the needs,” he said, “but also to have a period of peace and serenity that takes place through the grieving process here in Buffalo.”
The Baptist Convention of New York, National African American Fellowship of the Southern Baptist Convention and Baptist association leaders joined SBC Executive Committee interim president Willie McLaurin and local pastors as they prayed via Zoom.
Those who gathered prayed for wisdom and unity among believers and for peace, safety, healing, hope and comfort for victims’ families and the Buffalo community.
Eric Napoli, church planter at Sheridan Parkside Community Church in Tonawanda and co-pastor of Amherst Baptist Church in Buffalo, partnered with Hamilton at the Community Peace Market to provide fresh food, an evangelical message and fellowship on a corner a short distance from the shooting site on Jefferson Avenue.
Sheridan Parkside and Faithful Stones members also partnered to host “We Love You Jefferson Avenue” unity festivals featuring a barbeque dinner, games, a declaration of the gospel message, individual prayer and fellowship.
“[Faithful Stones] is right there in the middle of this and people are stimulated right now to hear the good news,” Napoli declared.
“The gospel is the center point,” he said.
“Our model is to build unity within the community, to give dignity, value and joy-filled life to people and in doing so, to show people that we are a united force.”
Napoli noted his close relationship with Hamilton illustrates unity within the body of Christ.
“Every time I walk into that parking lot or that church, it’s a sweet time of relationships,” Napoli said.
“We need to be stimulating relationships for all these churches that are outside the city to connect inside the city.”
William “Bill” Smith, pastor of North Buffalo Community Church, said outreach events have motivated some
of his members to step outside their comfort zone for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began limiting in-person gatherings.
“We’re all just going to go in and give what God would allow us to give so we can connect,” Smith said.
Ministry efforts are focused on engaging the body of Christ, at whatever level individuals are comfortable, Napoli noted.
“We all need to be sharing the gospel,” he said.
“My heart has been so broken in this past week or so. I’ve had so many more opportunities to pray with people and to share with people and to love people in an on-the-spot kind of counseling situation than I have for a long time.”
Flannery encouraged believers to continue praying for churches involved in ministry efforts.
He suggested praying that churches don’t move on to the “next thing” too quickly, but instead have wisdom for meeting long-term needs.
Empowered by God
Smith added, “Pray that our eyes would be open, that we would position ourselves in a way where we’re not hunkered down inside of our comfort zone, but that God would [motivate us] to get busy doing the things that we’ve been called to do.”
Terry Robertson, Baptist Convention of New York executive director, requested prayer for ministry families impacted by the shooting.
“God has empowered them to deal with this situation,” Robertson acknowledged.
“[But] there are elements of what is going on in the spiritual battle in Buffalo right now that they’re not going to be over for years to come.”