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We Must Respond to the Call for Change

Published in the issue.

It is August 4th as I write, and Hurricane Isaias is here. As I sit at my computer reflecting on the invitation to submit an article on the theme “Thy Kingdom Come,” I am actually comforted by the powerful storm’s sheer grandeur and beauty as it sweeps across Central Park in full view of my apartment, reminding me that God is on the throne and continues to “Be in Charge.” Given the actions or inactions in our country, our church, and our world, I really need that reminder to settle me down!

What is the message that we are being sent by the events of these past six months, and what should be our response as people of faith?  But first, what exactly have we seen?

We have had exposed and clearly seen the almost total breakdown and disregard of a group of people viewed as being “lesser in value” than others. For some, this epiphany has at last unearthed the reality of what it is like to be Black in this country we all love and call America – “the land of the free.”

When we look at the events of the past few months, it’s clear that COVID 19 has been a major contributor to illuminating the pervasive racism and White supremacy under which we exist. The pandemic has illuminated the huge number of essential people who maintain the services that have kept us safe and comfortable—America’s workforce, who almost always toil hand to mouth, many with little or no healthcare and little access to educational opportunities, and who struggle to find childcare for their own children.

Equally shocking has been the startling reminder of the ongoing practice of the murder of Black people. The very clear recordings of the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and countless others, have served as marching orders for our youth and young adults—drawn from diverse groups—to take to the streets and to call out for freedom and equality for all.

How can we as people of faith respond to the call for change in church and society?  In our diocese, the Reparations Committee’s long-term work has included comprehensive opportunities for education about our complicity in the historical and continuing practices of slavery. Its call for lamentation and for a process to define and engage in an apology for slavery manifested in White supremacy, has initiated positive actions in many of our congregations and organizations. This year more than 150 individuals participated in the online webinar “Knee on the Neck,” a five-session webinar that attracted participants from across the entire country.

There are many additional opportunities to have the difficult conversations that will help us to recognize slavery and White privilege as historical facts that have brought us as a nation to where we are today.

While it is important to identify the monuments and statues that have long glorified wrong and un-Christian values and ideals, it is more important to recognize the sin that they represent, and to commit ourselves to move ahead to change. Start the conversations in your congregations and organizations, and challenge yourselves, your families, and friends. These conversations must, by their very nature, be difficult.  If they are not, then you are not doing them right. Successful difficult conversations and admissions can lead us to a future that will change our lives, help us to admit our complicity and sins, and move, with God’s help, to a new day.