Baltimore: Reflections on Our Community


The death of a young black man, Freddie Gray, while in police custody prompted peaceful demonstrations as well as prayer-ins across his hometown of Baltimore. But on the night of his funeral, amidst still unanswered questions surrounding his death, Gray’s West Baltimore neighborhood erupted into rioting and looting.

When violence erupts, and our only access to information or basis for understanding comes from 24-hour cable news coverage, it can be hard to empathize or avoid judgment.

Faith leaders on the front line of peace and unity in Baltimore, Md.

Faith leaders on the front line of peace and unity in Baltimore, Md.

An integral part to our work at the General Commission on Religion and Race is to not only encourage vital conversations on topics for which we may not have the cultural competency to fully understand, but to also support those conversations through the sharing of related resources. By having the courage to confront hard topics and engage in thoughtful conversations on topics such as racism and racial discrimination, we can move forward together as a church, and as a society, and help build the Beloved Community that God calls each of us to create.

The story of Baltimore, and of the Sandtown-Winchester neighborhoods in the western part of the city, is so much more than what you’ve been led to believe by the majority of the news coverage. At GCORR, we wanted to do our small part to help elevate the real voices and stories of those neighborhoods–and to not only illuminate longstanding inequities but to also showcase resilience, strength, and spirit of its residents.

We’ve assembled a collection of stories, recommended readings, and resources that are intended to support your discovery, conversations, and actions.

As always, please email us if you have related resources to share.

Stories and Resources from the Baltimore-Washington Annual Conference

The communications department of the Baltimore-Washington Annual Conference has created and curated coverage of the events in Baltimore. Please visit their website for additional links to information not seen here.

In the Wake of Rioting, Bishop Matthews Calls for Shalom

“I continue to call on the people of Baltimore and all United Methodists to stand up for the values that endow all of the city’s residents with dignity, pride and wholeness.” Read Bishop Matthews’ full letter online at

United Methodists Respond to Baltimore Riots

As darkness began to fall that night, fear of what lay ahead between rioters and the police force grew. The Rev. Cynthia Moore-Koikoi experienced some of this fear. But when you’re afraid, “you pray and you march on,” she said. Read more online at

First-Person Stories From Church Members in Baltimore

Baltimore: A Community in Partnership

On any given day of the week, month, or year, self-described “teacher and a preacher” Rev. Dr. C. Anthony Hunt is one busy man. He serves as the senior pastor of Epworth Chapel in Baltimore, Md.; he’s a professor of systematic and practical theology at St. Mary’s Seminary and University in Baltimore; and he teaches on the adjunct faculty at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C. He also leads groups of seminary students on civil rights studies of Alabama as well as invites them to participate in cultural competency immersion experiences in inner-city Baltimore neighborhoods like Sandtown, the West Baltimore community that made headlines recently because of the death of yet another black male, Freddie Gray, while in police custody. Read more online at

Literal and Virtual Fences: When Man Creates Barriers to Equity, Justice, and Two-Way Relationships

The Rev. Cynthia Moore-Koikoi, , superintendent of the Baltimore Metropolitan District, for the Baltimore-Washington Annual Conference, has an important message to share about the residents of Sandtown-Winchester, the West Baltimore neighborhood where rioting and looting broke out the evening of Monday, April 27, after Freddie Gray, a young black man who died while in police custody, was buried: “Sandtown is a community that nurtures its residents; it’s a community that grows leaders; it’s a community that loves and protects itself. Folks need to know that. They also need to know that there are challenges, obstacles, and barriers that [are]really hard for residents who live here to overcome.” Read more online at

Leadership, Commitment Needed in Baltimore Neighborhoods

When rioting broke out in the Sandtown-Wincester neighborhood of West Baltimore, Md., on Monday, April 27, Rev. Christian Hall was one of the pastors who received word to attend a meeting of faith-based leaders in the city. The group of clergy came together to pray and to conduct a strategic planning session. But once assembled, the group quickly realized that it “had to go to ‘Ground Zero’ immediately,” said Hall, pastor of Kingdom Restoration Center, located in Baltimore. Read more online at

Standing Side by Side in Baltimore: Drawing the Circle Wide Enough to Allow Everyone to Stand Side by Side

In addition to serving as the pastor of Good Shepherd United Methodist Church in Baltimore, Md., Rev. Bonnie McCubbin is also training to become a volunteer city police chaplain. Clergy who complete the requisite training are then able to conduct ride alongs with police officers and serve as a bridge between law enforcement and the community. The program also supports police officers as they experience a great deal of job-related stress, stress that often spills over into their personal or family lives. Read more online at

Recommended Readings

Erin Hawkins Responds to Civil Unrest in Baltimore

Peaceful protests were overshadowed that same night when riots erupted on the streets of the city, leading to acts of violence and destruction of personal property. Suddenly the unlawful acts of a few overshadowed the positive, peaceful work of many seeking justice and answers to longstanding problems of racial inequity in our society and in our criminal justice system. Read more online at

Bishops: Work to End Racism and Welcome the Stranger

In a unanimously adopted pastoral letter, the Council of Bishops affirmed that “all lives are sacred and that a world free of racism and xenophobia is not only conceivable, but worthy of our pursuit.” Read more, including the full letter, online at

Real Action. Real Talk.

In the wake of the killing spree, social unrest and finger-pointing taking place around our country, the thing that is most disturbing is the utter silence and inertia that has distracted us from taking real action. Read more online at

Black Culture is Not the Problem

In the wake of the Michael Brown shooting and subsequent unrest in Ferguson, Mo., commentators noted the absence of black representatives among Ferguson’s elected officials and its police leadership. Then came Baltimore. The death of Freddie Gray, like those of Eric Garner, John Crawford III, Rekia Boyd and so many other unarmed African-Americans, at first seemed to fit the all-too-familiar template—white cops, black suspect, black corpse. Read more online at

Why Baltimore Burned

For decades, Baltimore has struggled to solve persistent inequality that puts people down—and keeps them down. Read more online at

How Freddie Gray’s Death Brought Gang Members and Pastors Together

Rev. Michael Parker, now a pastor at a Methodist Church in Bel-Air, Maryland, grew up with Freddie Gray in Sandtown-Winchester, a hardscrabble neighborhood in Baltimore where more than 50 percent of households earn less than $25,000 a year and nearly one-third of families live below the poverty line.  Read more online at

There is Nothing ‘Black’ About Rioting

On Monday, April 27, as Baltimore was rocked by violent and nonviolent protests alike, actor Jesse Williams, known for his role on “Grey’s Anatomy” and for occasionally weighing in on issues of race and police brutality, wrote what amounted to an essay on the history of rioting. Read his response at

What You Really Need to Know About Baltimore

Baltimore has been a combustible mix of poverty, crime, and hopelessness, uncomfortably juxtaposed against rich history, friendly people, venerable institutions and pockets of old-money affluence. The two Baltimores have mostly gone unreconciled. Read more online at

I Grieve With You

Slavery and legalized racial discrimination feel like such remote realities to us now, but there’s still something deeply unsettled between the white and black races that we can’t quite articulate.  Read more online at

Baltimore is Not Your City

This situation is certainly a race issue, but it is also a class issue. In short, most of us don’t know what it’s like to live in Baltimore below the poverty line, so we should stop pretending like we do. Read more online at

That Time When Jesus Started A Riot

The murder of young Michael Brown has grieved and enraged an entire community. Many of them took to the streets in response. Peaceful prayer vigils and protests were met with armed policemen, tanks, and tear gas. Violence broke out. The response has only gotten worse. Read more online at The Reboot.

Tale of Two Baltimores

“I’ve never been on this side of North Avenue before,” said Penny Pingleton, in John Waters’ Hairspray. As I walked along North Avenue in Baltimore yesterday, I became painfully aware of the truth behind this statement. The reality is that Baltimore in 2015 isn’t much different than the Baltimore of the fiction 1960s. Read more online at

GCORR is building the capacity of The United Methodist Church to be contextually relevant and to reach more people, younger people, and more diverse people as we make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.