Pray for Buffalo, NY in wake of mass shooting in the City of Buffalo. Please see article written by Diane Chandler from Baptist Press.
BUFFALO, N.Y. (BP) – Four miles from the Tops Friendly Markets mass shooting May 14, North Buffalo Community Church Pastor William Smith is comforting a crying community.
Church member Cashell Durham lost her baby brother Aaron Salter in the massacre – a 55-year-old retired Buffalo police officer and Tops security guard, who was among four employees killed. Smith’s daughter Lauren Smith is employed in Tops administration, but wasn’t at the 1275 Jefferson St. location.
“She said, ‘Daddy I cried all day yesterday (May 14),’” Smith told Baptist Press. “The impact rippled through all the city. … The church itself, we spent good time yesterday talking about violence and talking about pain.”
Durham is the widow of North Buffalo Baptist associate pastor Arriet J. Durham, who died in 2018.
“Cashell has been grieving now for quite a while. She’s had some help, but she’s still grieving from the loss of her husband,” Smith said. “And right now, she’s been bombarded with requests from different press agencies. … But she’s not really in any position to be able to speak with people. She’s just hurting so bad.”
The alleged shooter arrested at the scene of the crime, 18-year-old Payton S. Gendron, is accused of having driven 200 miles strategically to find a public location full of African Americans in what police are calling a racially motivated hate crime. Eleven victims were Black; two were white.
“We’re just trying to deal with the pain. So many of us Saturday were just crying. The pain was so hard,” Smith said. “And the Lord is the One who’s going to be near the brokenhearted. And when He’s near the brokenhearted, I really believe that that’s going to be what we need.
“We need the Lord’s guidance and we need prayer. Which was very encouraging, we got prayer from all over the country from people.” Many offered to help in any way needed.
Beverly Flannery, wife of Frontier Baptist Association Associational Missionary Mike Flannery, emailed 900 contacts predominantly in northeast New York asking for prayer for Buffalo. Hundreds responded. The Frontier association is mobilizing ministry to those impacted by the shooting.
“I am currently trying to organize churches to deliver food in this geographical area that is a food desert,” Mike Flannery said May 16. “The Tops store will be shut down probably several weeks because of federal investigations. I’m working with another organization, Saving Grace Ministries, that wants us to work with them to deliver food.”
Smith appreciates Southern Baptists’ compassionate response. He wants Southern Baptists to understand the pain.
“This shooting has added to the negative mental health of African Americans wondering who’s going to shoot next,” he said. “We have our own crime in the city. We have our own shooters in the city. And then to add this to that, it’s a painful thing for us, for little kids, because you never know when this is going to happen again. That’s why we need the Body of Christ.”
He mentioned widespread support from Southern Baptists across New York, including the Frontier association and the Baptist Convention of New York.
“It was an outpouring of support,” Smith said. “Those people in our circle have reached out to provide any kind of resources that we might need. I would … say thank you (to Southern Baptists), from North Buffalo, for our partnership, because it’s made a major difference, in a few days, just a short period of time, to know that we’ve got people behind us, supporting us.
“I’m glad to be a Southern Baptist.”
In addition to Salter, Buffalo police identified the murder victims as 86-year-old Ruth Whitfield, 77-year-old Pearly Young, 72-year-old Katherine Massey, 67-year-old Heyward Patterson, 65-year-old Celestine Chaney, 32-year-old Roberta Drury, 52-year-old Margus Morrison, 53-year-old Andre Mackneil and 62-year-old Geraldine Talley.
Three others were injured, Buffalo Police said, namely 20-year-old Zaire Goodman of Buffalo, 50-year-old Jennifer Warrington from Tonawanda, N.Y., and 55-year-old Christopher Braden from Lackawanna, N.Y. Goodman and Warrington were treated and released from a local hospital. Braden remained hospitalized May 15, a local NBC news affiliated reported.
Through a 180-page manifesto the shooting suspect posted online, police have connected Gendron to a fringe “replacement theory” conspiracy that says whites are being slowly and intentionally replaced by minorities and immigrants, CNN and other news outlets reported.
“We don’t have any answers for these kinds of things. Biblically, I don’t see how this is going to get any better,” Smith said. “When I read the Bible, I see that as the last days – which I believe we’re in – the kind of violence, this is just going to get worse. I’m not plotting out these things on a graph, but I see, all across our world, things are just getting worse and worse.”
Public prayer meetings are scheduled to help the community grieve and heal.
June 1, 2022
Sheridan Parkside Community Church partnered with Faithful Stones Church in Buffalo to host “We Love You Jefferson Avenue” outreach events on the corner of Utica and Jefferson Avenues, near the Tops supermarket shooting site.
(Photo courtesy of Sheridan Parkside Community Church Facebook)
Churches respond, serve community after tragic Buffalo shooting
On May 14, a shooting at Tops supermarket in Buffalo, New York — that investigators have called a racially motivated hate crime targeting African Americans — left 10 dead and three others injured. Since that tragic day, the massacre has brought believers together across racial, generational, socio-economic 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 and elder of Faithful Stones Church, an evangelical congregation near the crime scene.
“This event has struck all of us in the deepest senses 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 Pastor 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 and 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.”
Some attempted to promote hatred after the shooting, Napoli noted, but 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, lead 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,” 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 type of situation than I have for a long time.”
Believers can pray for churches involved in ministry efforts, DOM Flannery suggested — that they not move on to the “next thing” too quickly, but instead have wisdom for meeting long-term needs.
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-treasurer, 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.”