Monday, June 22, 2015

Madeleine's drawing of Emanuel AME Church
Source: Melanie and Madeleine

Moving Forward

Like many others I am shocked, angry, horrified, and deeply saddened by the tragedy in Charleston, South Carolina. As we begin to put all of the pieces together surrounding this violent attack, the systemic cancer of racism and hate embedded in our culture rises to the surface.

I grieve the loss of those nine saints and also the countless other lives that have been touched by violence, repression, and hatred because of the color of skin or ethnicity.

I grieve for the families, friends, and colleagues who will be forever changed by the senseless murder of loved ones.

I grieve for the congregation of Mother Emanuel who must now find a way forward without those beloved members of their community.

I grieve for the family of the assailant who are reeling with confusion, shock and heartbreak.

I grieve for the wider church, for even as we  strive to share Good News of God’s love in Christ Jesus  though our words and actions, we are human and fall short, and the news that so many of our impressionable young people are hearing is not good news at all; it is tainted with hatred, bias and vitriol.

I grieve that the central message of our faith- that in Christ all are welcome, all are loved, all are equal and all are justified in the eyes of God is not louder, deeper and wider than the other messages that we encounter on a daily basis. Instead we are barraged with messages driven by anxiety, suspicion and fear.

In an era when “radicalized” is a buzz-word often combined with extremism and hate, God calls the church to radical love. Perhaps it is only now in the wake of yet another tragedy that we are recognizing the enormity and urgency of God’s counter-cultural expression of reconciliation and love.

Indeed this is a wake-up call.

But even as the waves of grief continue to crash over our hearts, we see do see this radical love in action. Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, who even in the throes of the deepest pain and horror and unimaginable sadness, opened their doors for worship this Sunday. Their  response to this maelstrom of fear and hate was to provide sanctuary, hope, and God’s peace.

In the midst of this storm, God shows up bringing healing and comfort and grace; grace enacted by those family members who stood up at the bail hearing of the gunman and spoke of their pain and loss and also spoke of mercy. Rather than let sin have the last word; they spoke forgiveness. They resisted the urge to meet hate with hate and instead met hate with love and hope. Their words echoed through the court room:

“I forgive you… confess… repent…May God have mercy on your soul… God forgives you… I forgive you.”

Those powerful words were not just meant for one lone wolf attacker, but were meant for us all;  prophetic words that cannot be ignored. 

We as individuals and as a church must look outward and address issues of racial inequality in our culture and institutions and listen deeply to the experience of our brothers and sisters who face discrimination and injustice.

We must look inward and examine our own actions, our own bias, our own complicity through our silence, and engage our communities in honest dialogue about race.

We must look to the future and educate our children and grandchildren so that they will not only see the color of skin but will see the beautiful image of God in each and every person they encounter.

We must look to Jesus and take to heart God’s vision for the kingdom- a place where loving one another as Jesus loved us is not a lofty goal in the sky, but a way of life for the here and now.

As leaders we must look at the inauguration of a new day, an opportunity to explore new directions for ministry, and engage in new mission.

Let us follow Jesus and let us continue on the Way, and rebuke the fear, anger, anxiety, and hate and still this storm of injustice. Like those members of Mother Emanuel, let us act in faith and be the instruments of God’s mercy, peace, comfort, hope, and love in this age and in the age to come.

Wake up the Christ that is in you, and still this storm.

It is a time for us to move forward together-In Jesus name. Amen.



New England Synod: 
"I Have Dream Fund"  (Grant Process)
Providing financial resources for those who long for an end to racism and an increase in understanding across cultural barriers, established by Margaret and John Payne.

Faith and Leadership at Duke University: