Statement on Racial Injustice
The following letter was sent to the congregation on June 1, 2020.
On the heels of Pentecost, the predominant imagery of Acts 2.1-21 intersects with the images seen around our country in these tragic days. The “divided” tongues of our day scream at one another from partisan corners; the imagery of fire is seen in our rage and burning cities; and the beautiful image of breath from Pentecost is replaced with the horrific taking of breath from another unarmed black man. The protesters echo his cry: “I can’t breathe!”
Divided tongues, fire, breath. What in Acts is a display of the Spirit is now the imagery of an angry, grieved and scared nation. Now in our own community last night, just blocks from our church, a protest was dispersed with tear gas and arrests, and a curfew was enacted today. We are collectively trying to catch our breath, but not so leisurely that we condone delaying justice long denied and grossly overdue.
We filmed our Pentecost worship much earlier in the week, when news was breaking about Christian Cooper’s video and George Floyd’s death. We have followed, like you have, the events of the week as protests turned to riots turned to looting and spread from city to city. One of the questions we explored in our pre-recorded worship was to wonder if Pentecost was a miracle of hearing or of speaking when the people gathered in Jerusalem began to speak and hear in one another’s languages. This week we are firmly convinced it is both a miracle of listening and speaking. We have to listen to the cries and the laments of “what we have failed to hear.” We have to unlearn what we have been carefully taught. We have to hear how it is that our sisters and brothers of color cannot breathe in the systems and ideologies which pin them down.
And we must speak as Christian allies for those who have been systemically and historically marginalized. As our Mayor encouraged us, we have to “root out racism” which takes deep and vulnerable self-reflection that seeks truth for healing ourselves. Engaging in anti-racist behaviors and implicit bias attitudes and changing public policies takes us acting together. It takes more than a social media post or even a sermon to transform our hearts and minds. It takes the Holy Spirit!
And so, on this poignant day after Pentecost, the images of divided tongues, fire, and breath swirl around us. And, even with the despair we see, we celebrate that the Spirit is poured out on all flesh! All flesh – beautiful hues of brown and black included. For a world that can hardly breathe, we pray for the new breath of the Spirit to give us strength and courage to listen and speak as together we cry in one united voice, Come Holy Spirit, Come!
Robyn Michalove, Josh Stewart, Michael Waschevski
P.S. Be on the lookout for ways to engage in deeper reflection and dialogue and action. Circles of Christ, our covenant partnership with Mount Moriah Missionary Baptist Church, is currently working on some opportunities. In the meantime, the Presbyterian Church USA offers a prayer on the first page and these resources on the bottom of the second that we commend to you.