Dear Christ and St. Luke’s Family,

I am writing this pastoral letter because we are living through a defining moment in our country.  This moment calls for a strong response from faith leaders and faith communities.  

Across religious, political and racial lines, the shocking images of the cruel death of George Floyd seems a tipping point. It is past time for people of faith to take the lead in crying, “Enough!” Racism and racial injustice must end and we will commit ourselves to ending it.

As I said in my Pentecost sermon on Sunday, I was so moved and galvanized by the sight of Mayor Jacob Frey weeping over the death of George Floyd and the 400 years of enslavement, Jim Crow, economic disenfranchisement, lynchings, brutality, ghettoizing, marginalization and withholding of equal human rights which have been visited upon African American people in this country. It is time for weeping. It is time to repent and change our ways and this begins with a softening of the heart toward one another.

The ancient spiritual writers and cure of souls taught that one of the fruits of prayer and life in the spirit is “compunction.” Compunction is the experience of one’s cold and hardened heart being punctured or pierced with awareness and sorrow. Compunction leads to grief and grief to awakening and awakening leads to repentance – a change of attitude issuing forth in a whole new direction.

The peaceful protests of the past week are expressions of grief and care as well as cries for justice. Protest carries with it the risk of violence when long pent up outrage gets released. Protest can also attract violent instigators from the outside. Certainly, acts of violence and destruction must be contained for the protection of life and property. Nevertheless, as people of faith and goodwill, we must listen to what the genuine rage is trying to articulate. We are called to listen with hearts vulnerable to compassion, rather than resistant and hardened hearts. Fire does not spread without fuel. Systemic violence, and the trauma that results, perpetrated against a people over generations simmers out of sight, building pressure until eventually it finds an escape. 

This past Sunday during the Zoom coffee hour questions arose about what we can do as people of faith who are part of a church family that proclaims: “You belong.”

Here are a few ideas:

“We can begin to look at ourselves and to root out every trace of our own racism. And it exists within all of us. This idea distresses us, because we want to be good people, and the idea of racism is abhorrent to us. But it exists. And the sooner we begin to shine the light on it, the sooner we will be freed from its oppression; and then, maybe then, our brothers and sisters of color will also be freed.”

  • If it’s possible for you to do so, I hope you will join me at the “Park and Pray” event Wednesday, June 3, at 6pm in the parking lot of First Baptist Church/Lambert’s Point, 1268 W. 38th Street. Masks and social distancing will be required. Police Chief Larry Boone will be among the presenters along with Norfolk city leaders.
  • This Sunday, June 7, Bishop Susan Haynes and I will lead a Zoom Sunday Forum from 10:45 am -11:30 am. Head to the Virtual Church page for the Zoom Link.
  • The following Sunday, June 14, our coffee hour will take place at 10:30am so that at 11:30 am, Father Jim Curran will join us for a presentation on what he has learned from being a white pastor of a predominantly black parish, St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Norfolk.  
  • I also call your attention to this resource on how those of us who are white can make a positive difference: “75 Things White People Can Do For Racial Justice”

Finally, I leave you with these enduring words of Eleanor Roosevelt, a devout Episcopalian and champion for human rights:

“Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home – so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person; the neighborhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm, or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman, and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.”

God bless you all! 

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