At Greater St. Mark Family Church, parishioners wonder what's next
"I don't know what the verdict will be," one worried woman says
Another speculates the grand jury could postpone its decision
The church's pastor encourages voting and community involvement
Carol Byrd feels anxious at night when she leaves her home, just a few blocks away from West Florissant Avenue. She fears for her life.
She lives near the epicenter of protests that erupted after the killing of Michael Brown in this St. Louis suburb last August.
Byrd sought solace Sunday at her church.
“I feel calmer, but I’m still deeply disturbed,” said Byrd, 49, after service was over at Greater St. Mark Family Church, which has served as a sanctuary for protesters and will be a haven again if things get rough.
Byrd said someone in her apartment complex was shot a few weeks ago during protests. She fears that demonstrations could turn violent again.
“I don’t know what the verdict will be,” she said about the grand jury investigating Brown’s death. “I don’t know when it will come.”
That’s a question that hangs heavily over Ferguson, a city that remains on edge as word spreads that a grand jury looking into whether to indict police Officer Darren Wilson has yet to make a decision. Jurors are set to reconvene Monday.
Amina Stevenson, 26, said everyone is doing their best to deal with this period of extreme anxiety.
“I know God is protecting me and my family,” she said.
Stevenson says she believes the grand jury decision on whether to indict Wilson may be postponed because no one wants trouble during Thanksgiving.
“But they’ve already ruined it,” she said.
Voices of Ferguson: What do you want the world to know?
The Rev. Tommie L. Pierson Sr., pastor at Greater St. Mark, knew he would have to soothe troubled souls on this Sunday. He was also keenly aware that reporters were in the house of God.
“I hope that I won’t disappoint you,” he said before starting his sermon. “I’m going to try my best not to say something juicy that for the rest of my life I regret.”
Pierson has hardly been guarded on what he deems as injustice and extreme police brutality in Brown’s killing. He said that if there is no indictment against Wilson, authorities will be sending a message that black lives don’t matter.
He asked his flock to rely on their faith to get them through turbulent times.
“The path to moving forward is not always smooth,” he told CNN. “We must do it by faith.”
A tale of two streets in Ferguson
But, he said, it wasn’t enough for African-Americans to show their anger on the streets. He preached that black people must turn tragedy into empowerment.
His sermon focused on every person’s obligation to vote and participate in the community. Lack of African-American civic engagement in Ferguson, which is 68% black, has been a key theme in discussions about reforming aspects of how the city operates.
“The power to get what you need is already in our hands. We are part of the people, and we must participate,” Pierson said from the pulpit. “Pain will force us to do something.”
Pierson, like other community leaders, appealed for calm from protesters and relief from God.
“You alone know what the grand jury will do,” Pierson said, looking up. “You alone know what the marchers and demonstrators will do. We ask, oh God, for your protection.”
Complete coverage of what’s happening in Ferguson