The events of the past week or so have shaken our entire country as well as our local community. The killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery in recent weeks have showed us, yet again, how African Americans fight daily for their dignity and sometimes for their very lives, because of racial injustice. St. George’s stands by our welcome statement: “You are welcome at St. George’s regardless of race, nationality, sexual orientation, gender expression, or tradition.” Under-girding that welcome is our Baptismal Covenant which asks us: “Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?” Our response is always, “I will with God’s help.”
In order for our welcome to be genuine we must acknowledge the realities of inequity which are the opposite of welcome. We follow Jesus on the way of love, which means we speak up when our neighbors are unjustly treated and under attack. When one of us suffers, we all suffer. We reject the sin of racism in all its forms as part of our baptismal rejection of the “evil powers of this world which corrupt and destroy the creatures of God.” We pray for repentance as well. We have often left undone those things we ought to have done to change the systems which unjustly tip the scales in favor of white people in our nation.
A statement came from our Diocesan leaders yesterday. Presiding Bishop Michael Curry issued this word to the church over last weekend: As rector of St. George’s, I wholeheartedly embrace these statements and commend them to you. I also preached an additional sermon this past weekend. These are all summaries of where I stand and where I hope we as a parish can stand together in all our diversity of opinions and backgrounds.
There are young people leading peaceful protests in our community, and I call us to lament with them, listen to them, and ask how we can help. I applaud our city police yesterday for marching with them and pray for police who are also traumatized by the actions of their counterparts elsewhere. Largely in response to these young people, our city council yesterday adopted a resolution condemning racism and affirming that black lives matter. I was present at a march last Saturday and have tried to be a non-anxious and supportive presence at protest events in Market Square this week. They are literally in our backyard, and if we say we are welcoming, we need to be attentive. This is a moment for evangelism, to proclaim to our neighbors, by word, but mostly by example, the good news, through our actions of love.
I am asking some members of our racial reconciliation book group, which has been meeting for over a year, to share some of what they have learned about how we might continue our work. I will open up a space where parishioners can speak and hear each other without judgment. We will pray together for the whole human family. We will not try to fix each other or assume there is one right way.
Our conversation follows many previous ones. It will not be the last one, and there will be more to say. This is long, hard work. Lord, have mercy upon us and help us.
Your rector and brother in Christ,