Angry Buffalo Pastor Angry at the society that produced Payton Gendron

BUFFALO, New York – Sunday service at the Lincoln Memorial United Methodist Church had its share of parishioners suffering pain over personal loss in the attack by a white supremacist who killed 10 people at a local supermarket a day earlier.

As Pastor George Nicholas recalled in an interview, a “visibly upset” young woman stood near a teacher who had been gunned down.

Another parishioner lost his uncle, shot dead in the store’s parking lot, he said.

Another lost a good friend, Nicholas continued.

The pastor knew the family of Aaron Salter, the retired police officer who died in a shootout with the gunman. Two other parishioners, both retired police officers, knew Salter from their days in the police force, he said.

Nicholas told The Daily Beast he preached little during his ministry. Instead, he gave the floor to his parishioners, whom he described as “hurting.” But the mood, he said, was not only sadness, but also anger.

“They’re angry that we live in a society where this keeps happening. We’re not safe in our own community,” Nicholas said.

The pastor shares this anger.

“I’m angry at a society that produces people like this,” he added.

The 18-year-old suspect in the massacre appears to have become accustomed to several myths instilled in the far-right, from a false theory about a nonexistent conspiracy to murder whites to conspiracies about a parade attack in Waukesha, Wisconsin last December . The delusional thinking has been circulated in the darkest corners of the internet, but also in some cases in primetime spots on Fox News.

“For the past five or six years, maybe longer, there’s been a constant propaganda drumbeat,” Lincoln said, adding, “What do you think is going to happen?”

The church, located just a few miles from the scene of the shooting, has operated a pantry since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Nicholas said Western New York-based Highmark, the area’s largest health insurer, delivered groceries on Sunday. The pantry and related community efforts are especially important as Tops Market is the largest grocery retailer in the predominantly Black East Side city.

“The shop will be closed for a while,” Nicholas said.

The pastor said several white friends of the church, including clergy, stopped by the Sunday services. Nicholas called the gesture a “beautiful.”

He said the shooting underscores the need for the country to tackle the root cause of racism and the violence it sparks.

“It’s a problem within our culture, not just in individuals. We still don’t want to deal with it. It’s heartbreaking.”

Disclosure: Pastor George Nicholas serves on the board of directors of the Investigative Post, a non-profit Buffalo-based investigation reporting agency that Jim Heaney serves as editor and executive director. Angry Buffalo Pastor Angry at the society that produced Payton Gendron


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