Fellow parishioner Patricia McDougle, however, was disappointed in the verdict that cleared Zimmerman of any culpability in Trayvon’s death.
“I think Zimmerman was guilty of something. Maybe he didn’t intend when he started out that day to go and kill somebody, but it happened because of his actions. He certainly instigated the incident. I was hoping that there would at least be manslaughter or aggravated assault. It’s a shame. As a mother and a grandmother, I pray for Trayvon’s parents.”
Churches, she said, offer sanctuary at times of tragedy and uncertainty.
“In churches there will be peace. I certainly hope there are no violent demonstrations. I hope for peace and that justice somehow will be done.”
Across from the landmark Biltmore Hotel, the Coral Gables Congregational Church/United Church of Christ began to fill for its 11 a.m. service on the lush, tree-lined De Soto Boulevard.
Members hoped for healing and some were not exactly surprised by the not guilty verdict for Zimmerman.
“I have been following the trial and I was surprised but, at the same time, it’s Florida,” said church member Harold Sloan-Marrero, 26. “Anything can happen,” he said, smiling.
“My thoughts are as a member of the Christian community, I hope for peace and hope for healing on both sides of the spectrum. Healing for Zimmerman and what they [his family] went through. And healing for Trayvon’s family. And healing for the community and that we educate ourselves and hope that these things don’t happen again.”
Charmyn Kriton, a Gables Congregational church member for more than 17 years, was conflicted.
“I understand the justice. I understand the law. And I understand that justice was done in terms of the law. But justice means different things to different people,” she said. “As a mom, as an African-American mom, I struggle with it because it could have been my son. My son is 31. A lot of times kids are out there doing things that are not good for society or breaking into somebody’s home and this didn’t seem to be the case with this young man so that’s why I struggled.
“I hope as a community we will come together and try to bring healing to this community, as well as work with our society to realize that every life is valuable no matter the color of a person’s skin,” Kriton said.
That’s a message the Coral Gables Congregational Church’s senior pastor, The Rev. Laurinda Hafner, hoped emerge on the morning after and onward.
“I think it’s important that we, as a community of faith really make a statement and very much be a mirror of what we would want the larger community to act and react to all of this. It was a difficult trial. There are those who believed …you have the right to stand your ground and there are those who are questioning whether this young man, who was walking along eating his Skittles in the place he deserved to be, was taken down because of preconceived notions. I think there will be a struggle with all of this. But I’m hoping there will be some calm and some peace and that we really begin to look at how we profile people and how we make assumptions and evaluate instantly about someone, whether it’s their gender, or race or sexual orientation.”
Hafner watched the trial religiously. The outcome was a bit of a surprise. “I thought he might get manslaughter,” she said. “I didn’t there was enough evidence for second degree. There probably wasn’t enough evidence with what the jury was instructed to look at and that’s what we have to remember. A bad thing happened and I think we have to look at how we have preconceived notions about people and work really, really hard at erasing those so we can live honorably and respectfully of all people and with integrity in this community and the larger community.”
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