(see: Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me)
Friends of a younger generation capture the heartbreak and ache I feel today when they say “I am shook”- and not in a good way. Since a week ago last Monday, upon hearing, and then seeing on a steady and grotesque media loop the undeniable execution of George Floyd, I have moved through a spectrum of emotion; righteous indignation, paralyzing fear, gut-wrenching sadness, cautious optimism and fleeting moments of hope and despair. All the while, I am keenly and painfully aware that my “white privilege” affords me the agency to decide when and how I face into any/all of this. Coupled with that is my life experience reminding me staying stuck in our emotions leaves us sentenced to simply relive the painful reality of today locked in fear and void of the change we long to be a part of.
Then last Sunday, during our celebration of the Feast of Pentecost, and the welcoming of new members to our Trinity community, we renewed our baptismal vows, offering yet another clarion lens from which to consider who we claim to be as Christians. We were asked: “Will we strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?” Our response is always, “We will with God’s help.”
So where does this leave us today:
-A world without Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and so many others as a direct result of the ravaging effects of racial violence, inequality and injustice.
-A world in which African Americans fight daily for their dignity and sometimes for their very lives, due to the pervasiveness of systemic racism engrained into the meta-narrative of American history.
-A world in which we remain complicit until we engage the re-ordering of the inequalities of power and privilege criminalizing and killing our black and brown brothers and sisters.
For well over 150 years the mission of Trinity Episcopal Church has been one of genuine and dare say even radical welcome. AND today, I posit, that in order for that welcome to be as genuine as we desire, we must shift our posture to include a kind of sacred seeing and listening and witnessing. In the days to come may we find ways to be present, to advocate for the voices so often silenced, to tell our own stories and listen intently to others. One day, with God’s help, we will indeed be a part of the solution to systemic-wide change infusing our baptismal vows with life-giving meaning honoring the dignity of every human being.
When we profess to follow Jesus’ way of love, we are committing ourselves to speaking up and out whenever our neighbors are unjustly treated and/or under attack. When one of us suffers, we all suffer. We must emphatically and unapologetically reject the sin of racism in all its forms. We seek forgiveness for those things done and left undone tipping the scales in favor of white people in our nation.
I also want to lift up young people all over the country leading peaceful protests in many communities. Now more than ever I pray we can see and hear their wisdom, appreciate their yearnings, and lament with them and show them our love and support.
Finally, I have fewer answers than is comfortable for me. I do not know how to take away the hurt and fear and panic and sorrow that is saturating us daily. But I do know now is not the time to shrink back. Now is the time to speak up and take action, for the sake of Love, even at the risk of being wrong. George Floyd died because the system is broken; we are a part of that system. May we find ways every day, large and small to stay connected and committed to listening, to speaking out and dying to self so that others may live.
And may you never forget that you are loved,