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Fla. Pastor Prepares To Confront Zimmerman Verdict In Church


As we've been reporting this morning, George Zimmerman has been acquitted of manslaughter and second-degree murder after a Florida jury found him not guilty late last night. This morning, Pastor C.J. Haynes of the New Salem Primitive Baptist Church in Sanford is preparing to minister to his congregation, and he's kind enough to take some time to join us live amid his preparations.

Elder Haynes, good morning. Thanks so much for joining us.

PASTOR C.J. HAYNES: Good morning. And thank you for having me.

MARTIN: I guess, first off, I'd be interested to know when and how you heard about the verdict?

HAYNES: We were all pretty much sitting around at my mother's house and everyone's been anticipating for the verdict to come back and it flashed across the news that the jury had reached a verdict and so we all gathered all around the television to see what that verdict was going to be.

MARTIN: Is this something your congregation has been following closely? Do you expect that when they come in and come into your church this morning, they will have heard about the verdict?

HAYNES: Absolutely. Our church actually is located there in the Goldsborough area and we were very involved in a lot of the protests and things that were going on in order to get the case moving forward in the first place and get the arrest. And even after a lot of the national media left, we stayed very involved with the process and with the case. So, it's certainly on the hearts and minds and at the very forefront of many of the members of our congregation.

MARTIN: And how do you expect them to react?

HAYNES: With a lot of disappointment. I think that all of us had a sense of hope that the way that we had viewed the case would be the way that the jury would come back, but unfortunately that wasn't the case. But I think there will be a lot of disappointment. There will be, unfortunately, a lot of thought of things that have happened historically, which is - I think part of the sadness of it all is that even though this case is totally different from the different things that have happened, it can't but help bring up some of those thoughts and memories.

MARTIN: Are there any in your congregation who have been supporters of George Zimmerman?

HAYNES: None that I have known of. But what we supported is the process and the fairness of it, understanding that there is a process and that we have to go through with it, you know, and understanding there are two families that have been terrible affected by this incident. So, I don't know if any that have been at George Zimmerman rallies. But at the same time, we've hoped and prayed for him to receive a fair trial and, you know, it went through the process.

MARTIN: So how do you talk about this? Are you planning to address the trial in your sermon this morning and what's your message?

HAYNES: I am. I think it keeps changing very 12, 15 minutes. But I think at the end of it is that we all have an important role to play. That the case has run its course. It's gone through the process and, you know, that we have to be the agents of healing, that we have to be the agents of reconciliation, that we have to remember who we are, that we are representatives of our Lord and Savior. We represent our families, our communities. And that we have to live according to those principles that we've always had, and that we have to move forward and show love and respect for all the parties and hopefully to help reconcile the communities together.

MARTIN: You say there needs to be healing. Can you just briefly explain how the community has been wounded?

HAYNES: I believe that, as much as trying to be avoided, there is certainly an undertow of division among racial lines. I don't think it's been intentional. I think it's been a natural draw of things and I think that people from different backgrounds have viewed the case in a different manner. And unfortunately, a lot of things that have gone across the social media - a lot of blogs and those things - have been very hurtful and very painful for certain members of the community to read and to feel as though that their voice is not heard. To feel as though that, you know, there's still a great danger in being a young African-American in Sanford, Florida.

MARTIN: We will continue to follow reaction and response from larger Sanford, Florida community. C.J. Haynes, the pastor at the New Salem Primitive Baptist Church in Sanford. Thank you so much for taking the time, sir.

HAYNES: Thank you for having me.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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