Shots Fired: Understanding Gun Violence in Mansfield
This is the fourth installment in a nine-part series focused on gun violence and possible ideas to address this issue in Mansfield. These stories will be published on consecutive days starting Oct. 8 and running through Oct. 16.
MANSFIELD — Many have referred to Pastor Mark Cobb as the “Face of Grief” among Black youth and families in the Mansfield community.
He’s been the primary eulogist in what he assumes are the majority of funerals for Black youth between the ages of 15 and 35 in the city. So it’s understandable why such a label would be given to him.
Cobb, who shudders at such a description, said he has become accustomed to the idea people think of him when loved ones are lost, specifically the Black families who have suffered the tragic loss of young loved ones.
With the recent string of violent homicides and the tragic deaths by suicide and drug overdose, Cobb almost always gets the call. By his own estimation he has officiated more than 100 funerals in the last two years, and has been a witness to more than his share of pain.
When asked why he takes on such monumental responsibility, Cobb references his genuine love for people as his primary reasoning.
“I absolutely think I am a people’s Pastor. I love people and there’s no better way to show love, than to show it when people are hurting.”
In 2018, Cobb was chosen to lead the historic and long-standing Providence Baptist Church. The church was established in 1954 and has been a staple of Mansfield’s north side.
Cobb, at 51 years young, has brought a youthful exuberance to the ministry with his stimulating preaching style and innovative leadership. While Cobb gives all credit and glory to God, he and his wife, First Lady Yamica, have seen the membership of Providence explode in their first five years of leadership.
Not only has membership risen, but Providence has been able to achieve what has been a challenge for many churches in the U.S. since the end of the pandemic, which is to bring younger people back into houses of worship.
According to Cobb, many of their new members are between the ages of 20-45.
In addition to being a pastor, Cobb is also a licensed barber and owns a shop in downtown Mansfield.
The pastor’s association with the city’s Black youth and community through his shop gives him both a natural and spiritual connection with so many people.
“Mark is like a brother, a friend, a reverend or just anything you need him to be at any given moment … he’s just easy to talk to about anything and he cares about the people in the community, young and old,” says Trent Hammock Jr., a long-time client and friend.
Cobb has always been linked to the city’s youth in one way or another. Before he became the pastor of Providence church, he served as youth pastor of Shiloh Baptist Church here in Mansfield.
Lately, Cobb has realized a darker side of being so connected to the Black youth of Mansfield, a part that has become more prevalent in 2023. When there is an untimely death of a black youth in the community, because of his genuine care for people and the lasting connections he has made with so many families, many turn to him to eulogize their loved ones.
Although he accepts almost all the request that he receives to perform funeral services, he admitted it has begun to take an emotional toll on him personally.
“I lean heavily on God for my emotional strength, but I also have my wife, a spiritual mentor and a therapist that I see regularly to help me cope with the natural side and all the emotional stress that comes with this work,” Cobb said.
According to Cobb, his relationship with God and this regiment of self-care has been critical to his emotional health and has allowed him to be able to continue to serve the members of his church, as well as the Mansfield community.
Cobb understands that in many of the funeral services he presides over, he has the opportunity to speak to a specific demographic that, but for a funeral, may never step foot in a church.
Due to the homicides within the last eight months, where the victims were primarily Black males under 40 years old, there are funeral homes and church sanctuaries that are serving families and young friends that are filled with pain, grief and even anger about what has happened to their loved one.
When Cobb is not the primary officiant, he usually is asked to be part of the service as a supporting Minister.
His goal when speaking is to always be impactful and yet caring.
“It is so important for me in those moments to mimic the love of Christ and not be judgmental …Some people in those services may never get another opportunity to feel the love of God,” Cobb said.
Providence has opened its doors for funeral services to those who may not have been members of the church and have had no connection other than knowing who the pastor is and what he has done for others.
Cobb refers to a Biblical passage as his reasoning for being so open to those suffering loss.
“In 1st Corinthians, it states that love is patient, love is kind … love endures every circumstance.”
The impact of violence goes well beyond the echoes of a gunshot. The people that feel the pain associated with that violence sometimes go unnoticed and unrecognized.
One of the primary reasons why we must not accept violence as norm in our community is because of the lasting imprint it has on our local culture and how it can affect how our youth deal with conflict.
Cobb and his church family are one of the many examples of how unconditional care can impact a community. Just imagine if we all made decisions that were guided by the standards of 1st Corinthians.
How much violence could we avoid if our care for everyone was a little more patient, a little more kind and a little more enduring?
Be Blessed, Not Stressed
part 2 of series
part 3 of series
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