Christians across the country went to church on Sunday wearing hooded sweatshirts to show solidarity with Trayvon Martin, who wore one when he was killed by a neighborhood watch volunteer in Florida. Pastors called for justice for the slain black teenager as part of their sermons.
At Martin's family church, Antioch Missionary Baptist Church in Miami Gardens, Fla., Martin's mother Sybrina Fulton, attended the 7 a.m. service Sunday. The members planned to leave in buses for rallies in Sanford Monday, Miami Herald reported.
Sanford is where 17-year-old Martin was shot to death on Feb. 26 by a 28-year-old neighborhood watch volunteer, George Zimmerman, who is a white Hispanic. Many believe Martin's killing was a racist attack, as Zimmerman reportedly made racially-charged statements on a 911 call. Martin, who was carrying a bag of Skittles candy and an iced tea, was returning to his father's fiancée's house in Sanford from a convenience store at the time of the incident.
Martin's church decided to wear hoodies on every third Sunday of the month, as well as take up a special offering for his family.
At Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church in Eatonville, Fla., the Rev. Jesse Jackson spoke about Martin's death with the hundreds of congregants. "How do we turn pain into power?" he posed, as reported by The Associated Press. The church is about 20 miles from the site of the killing. "How do we go from a moment to a movement that curries favor?"
He said Martin's "martyr" death could revive the Civil Rights Commission and raise some long-standing issues. "The blood of the innocent has power," he said.
Churches in several other cities and states called for justice for Martin.
In New York City, Pastor Jacqueline Lewis of Middle Collegiate Church reminded members of the church's spiritual as well as political role to end "the epidemic" of racism, according to AP. She urged them to send packages of Skittles to Sanford police, sign an online petition, and attend an April conference on building multiracial congregations.
At Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Ga., where Martin Luther King Jr. and his father once preached, the Rev. Raphael Warnock, who was wearing a maroon Morehouse College hoodie, told the members, "We're standing as the church of nonviolence to say that a hoodie is not a weapon … They said his name was Trayvon Martin. But he looked like Emmett Till [who was lynched about 50 years ago] … At least with Emmett Till someone was arrested. And that was in 1955."
At Atlanta's First Iconium Baptist church, the Rev. Timothy McDonald said in his sermon, "We will not rest until Mr. Zimmerman who killed young Trayvon Martin is arrested. This could have been any one of our children."
The Sanford Police Department says Zimmerman wasn't arrested because evidence supports that he acted in self-defense. The teenager, however, was carrying no weapon.
Joe Oliver, a black friend of Zimmerman, sought to defend him, saying, "Right after the shooting he couldn't stop crying." He insisted that Zimmerman is not racist, ABC News reported Sunday.
At St. Sabina Catholic church with mostly black congregants in Chicago, Ill., a member held a sign reading, "We are all Trayvon Martin." The Rev. Michael Pfleger had his head covered with the hood of his robe during the mass. The Rev. Lee P. Washington at the Reid Temple AME church in Glenn Dale, Md., also wore a hoodie and held up a box of Skittles and a can of iced tea before his sermon. In his sermon, he discussed Martin's case.
Evangelical leaders have also shown support for Martin's case.
Last Tuesday, evangelist Franklin Graham met Pastor Jamal Bryant, a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People's Religious Affairs Committee, in Charlotte, N.C. Graham agreed to partner with his group in its efforts to fight for justice for Martin. "We came to an understanding that the black church is going to stand with Franklin Graham and his passion on Sudan and asked him, in turn, to stand with us calling for justice for Trayvon Martin in Orlando," wsoctv.com quoted Bryant as saying.
Reformed theologian John Piper wrote in his blog, "Jesus-like love – Jesus-empowered love – would rather be shamed than shoot. O what a difference it would have made if George Zimmerman had thought: "I have a gun. For Christ's sake – for the sake of love – I better not follow this young man. I might wind up using it. Law enforcement is on the way. I have done my duty. Lord, I pray that this man will be treated with respect, and that justice will be done, and that your name will be great in this place."