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The Rev. Sheron Patterson prays at a July 12 interfaith service in Dallas, honoring five police officers slain by a sniper. Video image from Fox4 News broadcast / North Texas Conference.

Video image from Fox4 News broadcast / North Texas Conference

The Rev. Sheron Patterson, a United Methodist elder, prays at a July 12 interfaith service in Dallas, honoring five police officers slain there by a sniper. President Obama and former President Bush were among the speakers.

United Methodists help with service for slain officers

By Sam Hodges
July 12, 2016 | DALLAS (UMNS)

United Methodists assisted with the July 12 interfaith memorial service in Dallas for five police officers slain by a sniper in the city’s downtown last week.

The Rev. Sheron Patterson, a United Methodist elder, was the Christian representative chosen to pray, with an imam and rabbi, before remarks by President Obama and former President George W. Bush. The service took place at the Meyerson Symphony Center. 

“God of our weary years, God of our silent tears, thou who has brought us thus far on the way,” Patterson said, quoting the Negro National Anthem. “Lord, our hearts are heavy, our spirits are torn asunder, and tears flow from our eyes.”

The officers killed were Michael Krol, Brent Thompson, Patrick Zamirripa, Michael Smith and Lorne Ahrens.

Patterson paid tribute to the officers and their families, and acknowledged the pain Dallas has experienced since the attack on July 7, as officers guarded protesters in a Black Lives Matter rally.

“There’s terror, anxiety and despair, but in the mighty and matchless name of Jesus Christ, we will keep on, we will press on, we will love on, we will live on,” Patterson prayed with gospel fervor.

‘Born in the blue’

Patterson is the communications officer for the North Texas Conference of The United Methodist Church. In a phone interview following the service, she called the chance to give the prayer “a blessing.” She noted that she’s the daughter of a retired policeman.

“Not only do I back the blue, I was born in the blue,” she said.

But Patterson added that as an African American, she supports Black Live Matter and recognizes real grievances among her race with law enforcement.

“My heart is big enough to accommodate all of it,” she said.

Patterson spent part of Monday counseling Dallas police officers. “That gave me a real sense of the aftermath,” she added. “Those effects are still lingering.”

Bush is a member of Highland Park United Methodist Church in Dallas, and was accompanied at the service by his wife, former First Lady Laura Bush.

“Those of us who love Dallas and call it home have had five deaths in the family,” the former president said.

The University Park United Methodist Church in Dallas contributed singers to an interfaith choir that performed at the service. Among its selections was “I Believe,” a hymn with music composed by Mark Miller, a United Methodist who teaches at Drew Theological School.

A somber president

President Obama, who was accompanied to Dallas by First Lady Michelle Obama, gave the concluding remarks.

He praised the Dallas police for brave conduct during the attack, as well as Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings and Dallas police Chief David Brown for how they’ve handled the aftermath.

“Thank you for your steady leadership,” Obama said. “Thank you for your powerful example.”

While praising police, Obama said it was a mistake to blame protesters when racial discrimination in law enforcement is a reality.

But Obama echoed earlier remarks by Brown: “We ask the police departments to do too much, and we ask too little of ourselves.” 

He went on to ask for open discussions about social conditions in communities that are beyond police control, but exacerbate police-community tensions.

“I’ve been to too many of these things,” a tearful Obama said of the memorial service.

But, quoting Scripture, he said Americans must pray for an “open heart” that allows for walking in another’s shoes.

Obama said the interfaith service itself was a witness to unity that is hard won, but crucial.

“In this audience, I see what’s possible when we recognize that we are one American family … all children of God. That’s the America I know.”

North Texas Conference Bishop Michael McKee issued a pastoral letter about the police slayings, asking North Texas Conference churches to read it aloud at last Sunday’s services and observe a period of silence.

Hodges, a United Methodist News Service writer, lives in Dallas. Contact him at (615) 742-5470 or