FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) — More than a century ago, a Kentucky Baptist church here was started by slave owners and had a slave owner as its pastor. But Wednesday night’s church service stands in stark contrast to the past as the pastor gathered several African-American pastors and leaders to pray with them and for them in a demonstration of gratitude and humility.
Buck Run Baptist Church played host to the special online prayer and scripture service Wednesday night where its pastor, Hershael York, lamented the early history of the church.
“I feel such a special blessing to be the pastor of this church, but we have a heritage that reminds us of our desperate need not just to know the gospel, but to live the gospel,” he said.
York, reflecting on the slavery that existed when Buck Run was founded in 1818, said he feels “the burden and weight” of that period in this nation’s history. “There are some who say we don’t need to concern ourselves with something so far back in the past. But if trauma can mark a person, can it not mark a people?”
York prayed that God would “so fill us with your spirit and give us such a commitment to the gospel that we would not be afraid to say we repent of the sins of our fathers. We are not worried that when we stand before you that you’re going to say we repented too much.
“I pray that in my brokenness I might care for my brothers, that I might care for black brothers and sisters. But I pray I might especially care for those who are not brothers and sisters, but they bear the image of God.”
York encouraged his virtual audience to “not whitewash the truth that we make it only about Christians. Help us to see there is outrage any time the image of God is defaced and diminished by the way we treat others. Lord, help us to be broken over it.”
York concluded his prayer by asking God to save the lost, to build His church and give His people humility. “I pray you would protect us from believing in our feelings and defaulting to defensiveness. But instead, that we might realize that because of the insidious effect of sin, we can’t trust our feelings. We have to go to your Word. And your Word is always true. I pray that we might be broken before you, that especially white Christians might say to our brothers and sisters of color, ‘We’ve got this. Let us defend you. Let us pray for you. Let us help you. Let us serve you.’” He then prayed the Lord would “do something in this nation, and especially in our churches, for which only God can take credit. We pray for the unity that comes from the gospel. We know that one day true justice will be done, when Jesus comes and rights all wrongs. But until then, Lord, may we strive for it as we pray your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
After reading Revelation 20 and praying, York washed the feet of four African-American men. “It was an honor for me. I thank God for them and I wanted to honor them. God has raised them up for a great purpose, and we wanted to say to them that we love them, thank God for them and want to serve them.”
Others participating in the online service of lament, hope and unity were:
--Jarvis Williams, professor at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and elder at Sojourn Midtown, read Isa. 1:2-20 and then prayed God would “help your hurting people believe by faith right now that death and injustice are not the final words in your redemptive story … we pray you would help your people look to you with unwavering hope in Jesus Christ.” Williams prayed specifically for the family of Ahmaud Arbery, that God would enable the justice system to perform with integrity and that everyone involved in the process would be “guided by your perfect providence to bring to light all the facts with clarity so that justice will prevail.
“Please help Christians to show love and kindness and compassion in the appropriate ways during this time of great injustice and grief.”
--Curtis Woods, associate executive director of the Kentucky Baptist Convention, read Eph. 2:11-22 and in his prayer said that even in the midst of pain and sorrow, “we can cry out that we are reconciled through your blood and because of your blood. We have the ability to live in reconciliation and unity with one another. We know that we can experience unity when we lean heavily into the cross of Christ, because it is at your cross that we find peace.”
Woods prayed that God “would not allow the devil to cause us to raise arms against one another, to not think ill of one another,” but that “we would think rightly about the image of God in every human being. Help us walk in unity.”
--Chris Parrish, associate pastor at Buck Run, read from Jer. 14 and said in his prayer, “Your image bearers are being stamped out in front of us before your eyes,” mentioning Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. “Father, we cry out to you in our distress because we know of your mercy and we know of your grace. And we know of your love. We will bless you at all times, even in pain. Your prayer shall continue to be in our mouths. So do not spurn us for your name’s sake."
--Tracy Woods, wife of Curtis Woods and member of Watson Memorial Baptist Church, read Phil. 2:1-11 and prayed "your children may have one attitude, one purpose. May we embody humility that we may exercise consideration and mercy for one another, even our enemies. We pray for those who have been commissioned to help to protect us to exercise sensitivity. Help us not to have a haughty look at those who have committed crimes, because without your grace, that could be any of us.
"Help us be patient and wait on your justice. Please unify America. We need your peace … only you have the power to change hearts.”
--Wesley Noss, associate pastor at Buck Run, read 1 Cor. 13 and then prayed "our lives would be filled with an overflowing love. Help us to cast out feelings of jealousy and hatred toward others. Help us to not become so easily angered. Help us to not become so quickly reactive, but instead be slow to speak and slow to become angry. Help us not to hold grudges, but to forgive, even when it’s so incredibly difficult.”
--Tanya York, pastor’s wife, read Ps. 2, then pleaded “for God to move among us and to move among this nation. Help us to be a people who value humility and seek it. Help us not rely on our own solutions, but rather humble ourselves to your wisdom.”
--Vic Sholar, pastor of Main Street Baptist Church in Lexington, read Eph. 4:1-16, then said in his prayer, “Now is the time to apply what the Word says. Your Word says for us to walk in love, your Word says for us to be gentle and humble, your Word says we are to be people who are forbearing towards one another. Lord, there’s nothing else to read, nothing else to discuss. Your Word says it. I just pray in this hour we will not deceive ourselves — having a lot knowledge, but not being doers of the Word.
“God, guard us from self-deceit, thinking we are okay, but we have not done anything as far as applying Your Word. Cleanse your church that we may be a light that people see Christ in us as we proclaim Christ to them.”
--Garnetta Smith, director of the Center for Student Success at Southern Seminary, read Ps. 1 and prayed “our focus and our meditation will be on you, your law and your Word … that we would be humble in all that we think and say.” She also prayed God would use the strife of our day “to draw men and women to Him for all eternity,”
--Kevin Jones, Buck Run staff member who was recently named dean of the College of Education at Cedarville University, read Acts 17:22-31 and prayed, “We lament over the sins that we have committed against one another. We lament because sometimes image bearers are not treated as image bearers. I lament because raising my three children in this world frightens me. We lament because of the privilege of one’s skin … I lament for my white brothers and sisters who are walking this walk, fighting the fight and then are ostracized and set aside by their own family members and friends. I lament because I know there are law-abiding, God-fearing, Christ-honoring police officers who weep and groan at the sight of spilled blood in the soil. I do not grieve without hope because my hope is not in mankind. My hope is not in a political party. Our hope, Lord, is only in your Son, Jesus Christ, our King. And because to that, my hope won’t be moved.”
Following the service, Sholar said the service “was very heartfelt. I appreciate the willingness (of the pastor) to humble himself to demonstrate his love for us and his black brothers and sisters in Christ.”
Woods commented, “Tracy and I were honored to serve alongside our friends Hershael and Tanya when we lived in Frankfort and were members of Buck Run Baptist. As a young married couple with three children under four years of age, Buck Run exemplified love and respect for us. Hershael displayed what Buck Run members did for us on a daily basis. Spiritual friendship is a means of grace that Christ will use to transform hearts of stone. Born-again believers reject all forms of superiority and inferiority.”