Twenty years ago, at end of April, 1992, the long-awaited trial of three policemen accused of beating motorist Rodney King was occurring in Los Angeles Country. The beating was caught on video tape, and shown repeatedly on national television stations leaving no doubt that three police officers used excessive force in subduing Rodney King while their supervisor looked on. Yet, an all-white jury in a suburb outside of LA acquitted the officers.
Public outcry was immediate. Fires erupted in LA for three days after the verdict; there was looting and riots, chaos, civil unrest, and a social uprising in the racially divided city. Fourteen died, many arrested, millions of dollars of damage to property.
The United Methodist General Conference was in session in Louisville in April/May 1992. The presiding Bishops set aside the Agenda of the Day to discuss how The United Methodist Church might respond to the civil unrest in LA, and threatening to spread across the country. When Rev. James Lawson, civil rights leader and UM pastor in LA, spoke for the Cal-Pac Conference delegation, he gave an eyewitness report to what was happening in Los Angeles. After a call for prayer and fasting, the next morning, Pastor Joseph Sprague (later Bishop Sprague), made a motion to create in downtown LA a “shalom zone” where health, healing, harmony and wholeness could emerge as neighbors worked together to seek the shalom of their community. Over time, this simple act has evolved into a network of over 150 Shalom Zones worldwide.
At 5 p.m. this Sunday, April 29, the friends of the Shalom movement will gather in the MFSA “Big Tent” for a special celebration of 20 years of Shalom. Bishop Joseph Sprague will be the main speaker for the event, which organizers say will involve singing, prayer, and story telling about shalom work throughout the world. This event will lead into Sunday evenings General Conference Celebration of Ministry session, with the Communities of Shalom making a report to the General Conference and showing their video “Shalom is still on the loose.”
For more information on the Communities of Shalom movement, visithttp://www.communitiesofshalom.org/