During the last week we have watched an incredible outpouring of emotion across our nation. In conversation with friends and clergy of color we have heard pain, fear, sadness, anger, and more. We too have wrestled with those same feelings. The reality is that George Floyd’s death is the most recent example of how black lives are so quickly taken in our society. The uneven effects of COVID, the deaths of Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, the threat against Christian Cooper, the killing by and of Tony McDade locally, and countless personal stories we will never hear have left so many of our human family feeling deeply vulnerable and downright unsafe. People are clamoring for answers, many are filing into the streets across the country, and our community has joined the widespread outcry and call for change.
We offer you a pastoral word and call to lament in this moment. Many of the people who receive this communication do not live with the day to day reality of social interactions that could take our lives. For your pastors, the COVID pandemic is the longest stretch of our lives where we have had to deal with the deep fear and anxiety of not knowing if walking down the street or into the store may result in our death. This is but a glimpse into what many of our brothers and sisters of color regularly live with. We know when discomfort and uncertainty wells up inside us about how to respond or what to do in the face of our family’s pain, this story is not about us. Sitting in the discomfort we feel is a choice we must make, because we have a choice to make. Working through our uncertainty in this moment is a sign of God’s grace and equips us to better support our family.
Lamentations are part of our Christian tradition, passed down through the great cloud of witnesses to our faith from Abraham’s doubt, to Ruth’s prose, in Jesus’ tears, Wesley’s uncertainty, and Martin’s dream. We find comfort and peace in our grief thanks to God’s grace. We also find strength, together. While we must lament we must also act. Something simple to do in this moment is show love for your neighbor and check on your friends, particularly your friends of color. Let them know you care and you’re ready to listen. You don’t have to have answers or solutions, nor is this the time for lots of questions. Just sit with them, listen, engage when asked, and acknowledge the experiences they share.
Another step is to reflect on what you are doing to move God’s Kingdom forward with honor and respect for the wonderful diversity of Creation. Like the old children’s song goes, “red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight,” God’s love is for everyone. You can Google antiracism resources and start some research. We’ve also included a reflection from one of our member’s, Walli Beall, with this message to serve as a guidepost for all our journeys. We can do a better job of confronting our own biases and pray for the grace to do it without harm.
Finally, if you are called to act, we encourage you to be safe. There are demonstrations happening almost daily. There is one tonight. People will gather at 7pm at the Capitol and walk to Cascades Park. Our mayor, city commission, police chief, city manager and assistant city manager, as well as several clergy made a public statement on Monday of this week supporting and encouraging peaceful demonstration. We echo their sentiment and ask that you also remember we are in the middle of a community-wide pandemic response.
We Love Being Your Pastors,
Dr. Wayne, Rev. Neal, and Dr. Nick