I wrote this letter before the shooting of police officers last night (as of yet, I believe all are still alive). My heart cries out for all who are suffering -- for our siblings who are people of color, our police officers and their families, small business owners trying to make it during a pandemic. And the reality of systemic racism that has a long history in this nation and can only be undone by our individual and communal work.
June 1, 2020
One of the reasons we are church together is to create sanctuary from the struggles, the pain, the grief and the injustice of the outside world – somewhere we can come for comfort and solace. I understand that. I feel that.
And yet, I cannot stay silent. “The voice of our brother’s blood is crying out to God from the ground” (Genesis 4:10). If we are to proclaim a Christ who was a crucified, if we are to proclaim a Christ who liberates all of us, if we are to proclaim a beloved community for all God’s children, then we cannot stay silent today. The work of dismantling racism is the work of making it possible for all of us to breathe. It is the work of liberation for all of us – not just for people of African, Asian, Indigenous, Central or South American descent.
“What does the Lord require of you?” the prophet Micah writes, “but to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8). Being God’s people has always meant doing justice. It has always meant lamenting with those who grieve. And it has always required the humility to follow God’s lead. At this moment in history, being God’s people requires us to engage in our own work to dismantle the biases and the racism embedded in each one of us. For those who have heard me preach, you know that I will be the first to confess my own bias, my own racism. It was a rude awakening to realize that my years of living as a minority in Zulu and Ndebele communities in southern Africa did not inoculate me against the evil that is racism or the privilege that comes with my whiteness. It has been a painful journey to name and claim my own bias. The journey to dismantle my own racism is not over but in many ways just beginning.
This last week I have struggled to find words following the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. I realize that fear runs not just among those of our siblings who are brown or black but also among those of us who have loved ones serving as police officers or first responders. I want to make it very clear that the work of anti-racism is not anti-police. In fact, it is work that will in the long run keep our police safer – from physical violence and from the spiritual and emotional violence of being associated with atrocities like the murder of George Floyd. The violence of working with people who are allowed to abuse their power and intimidate not just common citizens but their fellow officers.
In the coming days and weeks, I will be putting together opportunities for engagement, study and conversation. As you know, I am already participating in Sacred Conversations to End Racism here in our conference. I hope you will join me in learning, praying and seeking to change first ourselves and our lives and then seeking to shift systems around us. I realize this is no easy ask. Often, this work is deeply painful, bringing with it feelings of shame and guilt, anger, grief and helplessness. And I believe with everything that I am that this is the work of the Holy Spirit – this is the work of learning to speak another language, of learning to cross boundaries, of living a courageously Christian life of love and compassion. This is the work of wind, breath and spirit – that moves, that gives life, that renews. This is learning to love our neighbor as ourselves.
I have said this many times before, and I say it again: I feel so very blessed to be in THIS community of First Congregational Church, Loveland UCC at this moment in history. Again and again, you have demonstrated your generosity, your courage and your love. I have watched as our congregation has deepened in our willingness to share honestly and authentically with one another. I have watched as we have sat together in discomfort. I have seen the Holy Spirit move among us through tears and grief, through laughter and celebration and through disagreement and discord. And so I say thank you. Thank you for being Christ’s body with and to me. As fear festers around us, as hatred and deep divisions are seen ever more clearly, may we stand together as a light upon the hill – a light shining love, compassion, forgiveness, hope and justice for all of God’s beloved children.
In hope and love,
What can you do today?
Especially if you are of European descent (white) and Anglo American
Pray – that we may ensure all God’s children are seen and treated as human beings, and because of this have the courage to face systemic racism.
Listen & Share – join in a small-group discussion either in-person (distanced) or virtually on Wednesday evenings through our church. Please reach out to me if you are interested.
Read – “75 Things White People Can Do For Racial Justice”
Act – you now have a list of 75 things you can do...