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Mike hopes to see the world turned upside down through local communities banding together for social change, especially churches which have recognized the radical calling to be good news to the poor, to set free the prisoners and oppressed, and to become the social embodiment of the reign of God on earth as it is in heaven. He lives with the blessed memory of his wife, in Durham, NC, and has three adult children living in three different states. He also shares his life with the Mt. Level Missionary Baptist Church in Durham, the faculty and students of Shaw University Divinity School in Raleigh, NC, and the faithful fans of Duke and Baylor Basketball in his neighborhood.

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Friday, April 08, 2016

This Ain't Right

This week my youngest daughter sent our family group a text message.  It said, "Guy I grew up with in Durham was shot and has died."  Her siblings and I exchanged a few texts as we learned about the young man.  His name is Cortnay Garner-McDougald.  #SayHisName

The two of them were students together at George Watts Elementary School, at Brogden Middle School, and at Riverside High School.  "Earliest I can remember him is fourth grade."  That's pretty far back.  They weren't best buddies, but they saw each other, passed each other, and sat in class together sometimes.  "He was in a couple of honors classes at Brogden" that she was also in.

All that the newspaper had to say was the place where he was found, shot in the head, dying at the corner of Grace and Liberty Streets.  The police found him in response to a reported shooting.  A young man's damaged body on the street corner.  Some mother's child.  Some father's son.  Someone's grandson, nephew, friend.

I wanted to know more about him.  The picture the newspaper offered was a mugshot.  He had been arrested previously, on the same Grace Street, along with some other young men, charged with shooting into a dwelling.  Why is that all I can find out?  Although he had lived in this world for at least 25 years, the only accessible information was about an arrest, his being shot, and his death.  He had not been tried for or convicted of any crime.

That's not the world I want my adult children to have to deal with.  Four days later, as I write about Cortnay, there is no obituary other than listing his name and a funeral home.  The funeral home website does not list his name.  Someone knew him.

Was there a church or other faith community that he had encountered?  Did they learn his name?  Did they write it down?  Did anyone wonder where he was when they did not see him in Sunday School, at choir rehearsal, or in the service?

A friend I have recently gotten to know, Royce Hathcock, talked to a group of students at Shaw Divinity School last Saturday.  Among many important things he said, one stuck with me.  Royce said that at his church, Tapestry, they were trying to be a community that keeps up with people.  They were not first interested in finding more people; rather, they want to stay in relationship with the ones who have already come their way.  Royce and some other church people in South Raleigh were devastated when their friend, Akiel Denkins, was shot and killed recently in their neighborhood.  They had known him.  He was in and out of their classes and churches, but they stayed in touch with him.  When Akiel died, it was not a head-scratching moment to try to figure out who the young man was.  It was a piece of their heart that was broken.

Royce was not claiming to be part of a perfect church, but there was something basic to being a church that his words expressed that day.  Somewhere, family and friends who had kept up with Cortnay had their hearts broken.  No one is telling their stories in print.  I can only wonder if there is a church who knew Cortnay and is grieving his absence.  This ain't how things should be.  It is never the will of God that a young man get a bullet through his head.  God wants life for us, a life of loving one another.

May God's Spirit surround the people who love Cortnay Garner-McDougald.  May God's Spirit make us lovers of the young men and women in our neighborhoods and cities, loving enough to keep up with them.  May we be found accompanying Jesus life-giving mission at the corner of Grace and Liberty Streets.  #SayHisName

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