A Pastoral Letter to our Church Family
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 death of Ahmaud Arbery, and countless personal stories we will never hear have left so many of our human family feeling deeply vulnerable and 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. It is my strong belief that the Church needs to be leading the way to a new reality for all of God’s children.
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. But let me be very clear, such a fear does not even begin to give us a glimpse into the harsh reality that prejudice, inequality, and racism has played in the United States of America for centuries and in our present day.
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, John Wesley’s uncertainty, and Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream. We find comfort and peace in our grief thanks to God’s grace. 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 children’s song goes, “red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight,” God’s love is for everyone. You are personally invited to participate in a six-week book study of “America’s Original Sin” by Jim Wallis that Rev. Kayln Wiley will be leading starting Wednesday, June 17. This is one step we can take to not only learn from our nation’s history, but to claim God’s grace as we look deep within each of our souls for how God wants us as individuals and as the church to respond to injustice in our community, state, and nation.
We invite you to join your pastors in a season of prayer for those most impacted by injustice, that together we may experience God’s gift of peace.
Rev. Thom Shafer, Rev. Robert Bledsoe, and Rev. Kayln Wiley