The congregation at the Church of Bethel’s Family in Southwest Houston undertook a truly unique experience on April 26 when about 20 visitors wearing Houston blue showed up for fellowship and worship.
Eric Fagan, HPOU member and current president of the African American Police Officers League (AAPOL) said the men and women in HPD uniforms were present to emphasize that they are dedicated to a peaceful community that stresses law-abiding citizenship and public demonstrations.
Pastor Walter August Jr. called on Fagan to speak along with HPOU President Ray Hunt and HPD Executive Assistant Chief Michael Dirden. Each speaker stressed the difference in Houston policing compared to that of the more racially troubled American cities.
Fagan said he stressed the reasons why HPOU and AAPOL “came together because of all the turmoil in the country,” especially the negative perception of police officers.
“We are reaching out to the community to show that we’re concerned about officers and citizens getting killed,” he said. “We believe people have the right to peacefully protest but we’re not going to let it (protest activity) break down like it did in Baltimore.”
Bethel is a Christian congregation of 10,000 active members. Many of these members greeted Chief Dirden and the officers warmly and spent time talking to them after Pastor August’s sermon.
Fagan said the emphasis was living Christian principles taught by Jesus Christ, saying “we all feel the same way.”
“We got a great reaction,” he said. “They (congregants) were thanking me and Ray and said they appreciate officers in uniform coming to church. They couldn’t believe it.”
Fagan said that the officers “came from all over” and not just the Southwest side. “We, AAPOL and the HPOU, invited anybody and everybody to come and there was about 20 who showed up from assignments all over the city.”