Dear St. John’s,
I opened my Pentecost sermon with these words: “More than 100,000 people have now died from the corona virus in the United States alone. George Floyd was murdered in Minneapolis last week, yet another victim of hate and racism and fear. People are protesting in the streets in Minneapolis, in Louisville, and across the nation, demanding justice, dignity, pleading for black people to be allowed to LIVE.
It has been a heavy week in the midst of many heavy weeks. I don’t know about you, but my heart is weary.”
The very next day, President Trump broke up a peaceful protest happening outside the White House just in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church just so he could get some photos holding a Bible in front of a church. Presiding Bishop Michael Curry has spoken to the press several times this week, saying this on MSNBC about the situation: "You don't read 'blessed are the peacemakers' and then have tear gas fired on peaceful protesters."
My sisters and brothers, we cannot let this distract us from what is before us. Our task at hand is to confront the spiritual sickness of racism and selfishness. Our challenge is to oppose the systemic racism and oppression upon which our churches, our nation, our criminal justice system, and our society were founded upon.
As a predominantly white congregation in a mostly white denomination, it is past time for us to do our work. What does that mean? you might be wondering. Well, I’m glad you asked.
Here is what I am doing, and I invite you to join me.
- Keep praying. Prayer is a powerful thing and me must never neglect it and by itself, it is not enough.
- Say, “I’m sorry.” Now is the time to lean into lament. It is time to acknowledge the corporate sin inflicted upon people of color through a culture of white supremacy and confess our implicit consent in systemic injustices.
- Listen. A trending hashtag on social media right now is #amplifymelanatedvoices. Which voices are you listening to that aren’t like your own? The goal is not to be colorblind. The goal is to raise awareness within yourself from people whose experiences are different. If you don’t know where to start, ask me! I would be happy to help you figure out a good place to begin.
- Participate in and financially support organizations run by people of color. Here is one list of local businesses in Seattle. http://seattlerefined.com/lifestyle/support-black-owned-businesses-in-seattle
There are two immediate opportunities for you to educate yourself right here at St. John’s this summer. The first is a forum on Spirituality and Racial Justice with Michael Curry. I will lead this 4-part video series on Zoom June 14, 21, 28, and July 5 from 9:00-10:00 a.m.
To participate, all you need to do is log in to Zoom and be willing to listen and participate. I hope to see you there.
And, I invite you to read So You Want to Talk About Race by local author, Ijeoma Oluo. We will set a couple of dates to discuss this book at the end of the summer. Please let me know if you plan to read the book and want to be part of this discussion.
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St. Mark’s Cathedral website has an excellent list of resources and I commend it to you as well.
What if we use this time of quarantine and social distancing to do our work? What if we see this time apart as an opportunity not to dwell on what we are going without, but instead a time to educate ourselves regarding the experiences of people of color for centuries? Perhaps this giant pause is just what we needed to save ourselves from ourselves, from our own selfishness and self-centeredness. The Black Lives Matter movement is not about us. It is not about the experiences of wokeness of white people. It is about giving space for the narrative of the oppressed to become the dominant story. Let us listen. Amen.