Road to Reconciliation

Blog Post by
Rev. John Harrisson
Dismantling Racism and Privilege (DRAP) Team Moderator
afftonpastor@gmail.com


When asked why God’s people in the United States are still so divided by race in churches, neighborhoods, schools and regions of the country, a lot of people tend to shrug their shoulders and say that’s just the way it is. We can be tempted to believe our history of racial violence and subjugation ended with the Civil Rights movement, and the separation we have today can therefore seem self-selecting, a matter of comfort level or choice. It is easy to forget that the separation we still experience was built by design and enforced by law (The Color of Law, by Richard Rothstein, lays out this argument particularly well).

This information can feel depressing, but I believe learning more about how racial segregation was built by human hands is, at its root, an exercise in hope. If we still live, move and have our being in divided communities because of what has been built, that means the things that divide us can also be dismantled. Something else can be built in their place. That, in short, is the mission of the Dismantling Racism and Privilege Team. We join Jesus Christ in breaking down the dividing walls (Eph. 2:14) in our presbytery piece by piece, with the hope of building something new in its place.

We can be tempted to believe it is enough to dismantle racist laws. The problem is that while the laws may be gone, the walls they built still remain: in our families; in our churches; in the air we breathe and the media we consume. Our purpose in leading a journey to Montgomery, Alabama this October is to lay a new foundation as a Presbytery, and to see together what God is building.

It has been a breath of fresh air to see all the stakeholders who have pledged to join us on the road to reconciliation. Much more than a simple mission trip, we see this journey as a seed, a new beginning we can bring home with us to take root and grow. It is a seed of interracial community and spiritual formation, a seed of acknowledgement and healing and boldness to approach the throne of grace in our time of need. It is an investment in developing new leadership and stronger networks for a broader project of reconciliation and new growth in the years ahead.

We are closing in on our application deadline of August 1, and so we invite you with urgency and zeal to consider joining us on the bus in October and in the community,  we hope to sustain when we return home.

Details of the journey may be found here.

Rev. John Harrison

 

 

Advent – A Journey of Faith

Blog Post by
Rev. Vanessa Hawkins
Designated Associate Presbytery Leader
vhawkins@glpby.org 


Last Sunday was a busy day for the presbytery!

I started Sunday morning off listening to my GPS inform me that some of the streets to First Brighton were unverifiable. Not one to be derailed by GPS, I headed out only to get lost and be rescued later by a wonderful member of the church. My GPS took me to another church down the road. Thankfully, a member of Brighton collected me from the parking lot of the local museum and drove me to their beautiful edifice.

After the service I rushed to preach at Moro Presbyterian Church as they celebrated 170 years of service. Walking into the fellowship hall after the service, I was able to spend some time looking over 170 years of memorabilia. It was a delight to look over worship bulletins from decades ago, to listen to members identify their photos in the directories, and to listen to the third oldest member of the church tell stories about those who have passed on to join the Church Triumphant. I was reminded by their witness that this faith journey is built upon the faith of those who came before and our faith will be built upon by those who come after us.

My last stop of the day was the installation of Andrew Kasberg, as the new head of staff, at Dardenne Presbyterian Church.  It was a fitting end to a long day.  One theme that stood out that encapsulated the entire day was one of the opening praise songs “Who You Say I Am.” As I listened to the choir, I was reminded that we are indeed a chosen people, called and loved by God. That God, Emmanuel, is indeed with us – and does not stand against us. It was a beautiful song reminding me that as a child of God I truly belonged to God and that Christ died so that we could be free.

As we continue to journey through this Advent season—let us be like the African Sankofa Bird – looking back while walking into the future. In this season of waiting – let us pause for a brief moment. Take time to give thanks to God for the faithful witnesses who have gone before us. Pause and give thanks for being one of many being used by God to prepare the path for those who will come after us. And for all these things we give thanks.

Rev. Vanessa Hawkins

A Brief GA Reflection and Revelation

Blog Post by
Rev. Cedric Portis
Co-Moderator of the Committee on Local Arrangements (COLA)


The 223 General Assembly is upon us. I’m confident that our preparation and planning will pay off this week as we welcome and host Presbyterians from all over the world.

These past two years I’ve had the privilege of serving as co-moderator of the Committee on Local Arrangements (COLA). As I continued my work as pastor of Third Presbyterian, there were times the work seemed overwhelming. It was then, in the middle of an already overloaded schedule, God gave me a revelation.

This is how it happened.

When I normally plan my day, I come up with a list of what I HAVE to do.  My revelation is very simple. I change HAVE to GET!!!  This may seem insignificant, but it is revelatory for me. This answer to prayer changes my focus and motivation.

I want to share this testimony with you so that we may all realize the gift we have.  As the Presbytery of Giddings Lovejoy, we can look at this week and say collectively we GET the opportunity to interact, impact, and transform the church, as we do the work of GA.

Perhaps this small change in perspective will continue to excite and motivate us this upcoming week. We have asked the PC(USA) to meet us in St. Louis, and now they are arriving by the thousands! I’m looking forward to seeing you there as well.

Rev. Cedric Portis
Pastor, Third Presbyterian Church

GA#223 – 10 Days Away

Blog Post by
Rev. Carol DeVaughan
Co-Moderator of the Committee on Local Arrangements (COLA)


In case you aren’t aware – the General Assembly of PCUSA meets in St. Louis in about 10 days. I really hope this is not news to any of you, because you, as members of the Presbytery of Giddings-Lovejoy are part of the hosts for this gathering. For more than two years those of us who are part of the planning team have been working on the myriad details of our hosting responsibilities.

We have planned for welcoming folks from around the world, at the airport and hotels, and the corridors of the Convention Center. We have planned tours to various points of interest in our region. We have asked local congregations to welcome and feed Assembly attendees at their congregational worship on June 17. We have designed apparel for volunteers to wear, and gifts to be given to visitors. So many people wanted to be part of the choir for the opening worship, we had to start a waiting list. There are new web and Facebook pages; social media entries, a video and other publicity materials. We’ve planned a “hands-on mission” project and area for everyone to feel they are contributing to helping the STL region. So much! So many people already involved! And we still need more volunteers.

Why should you care, or offer your time and talents and treasure to support the meeting of the General Assembly? Well, the short answer is because we are GA. Just as I often said during my year as Presbytery Moderator, “We are the Presbytery.” We Presbyterians are connectional. We believe that through Christ we are all part of one another. And this concept is the theme of this Assembly “Kindom Building.” You and I are “kin;” all God’s children are “kin.” As kin we care about and for one another, especially those for whom life is a struggle, those for whom injustice is a daily fact of life, those who cry out to God and therefore to us for help.

Being part of our larger church is both a privilege and a part of who we already are. So I hope to see all of you during this General Assembly. It is a joy to witness the church at work in such a special way, an opportunity that will not be closer or easier for years to come.

Rev. Carol DeVaughan, HR
Co-Moderator, Committee on Local Arrangements

Privilege? Nah. Not me.

Guest Blog Post by
Rev. Dr. Chris Keating
Pastor of Woodlawn Chapel Presbyterian Church


                I’ve always been a bit uncomfortable with words like “privilege” or “bias.” There was little about my childhood that could be described as privileged—at least not in the way some might use the term.  Middle class, certainly, but hardly privileged. And while I’m far from perfect, I tend to think my biases are primarily focused positively in favor of certain baseball teams and warmer climates and negatively against a particular chain of restaurants.

That’s not unlike a lot of people I’ve encountered. Few persons I’ve known in ministry feel comfortable defining themselves as privileged. They are the first to tell you they have worked hard to overcome obstacles in achieving success. They point to ways that others had advantages they never had. Their lives reflect grit and determination and the can-do spirit of many middle-class families.

Privileged? Nope. Nah. Not me.

But then I remember the time as a teenager that I spent an afternoon wandering through one of Los Angeles’ finest department stores. The store clerks didn’t watch my every move; they handed me a credit card application. Likewise, unlike some of my friends who are black, I have never been questioned by the police when I was parked outside a west St. Louis county grocery store or at a church. I’ve sat unnoticed in coffee shops for hours.

Got privilege? It’s time to realize how these invisible systems and structures are present everywhere, and they disrupt life in the kindom of God.

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend the 19th annual White Privilege Conference, a large national gathering of students, educators, school employees, social workers, activists and others. The conference is an intentional gathering of diverse perspectives and voices and is dedicated to exploring solutions to achieving a more equitable world. In a very broad sense, it’s a chance to check your privilege.

I’m immensely grateful to both the Presbytery’s Dismantling Racism and Privilege Team and my congregation for offering me the opportunity to attend. While WPC is a secular conference, faith groups were represented. At a time when divisions in our world seem to be growing, I was amazed at the way organizers worked to be truly inclusive—much more inclusive, in fact, than most church gatherings.

It didn’t escape the attention of leaders and attendees that this year’s gathering was held in a Grand Rapids, MI convention center that bears the family name of our current Secretary of Education.  Likewise, the convention’s main hotel was the prestigious Amway Grand Hotel, which is also owned by that same family. I joked that I couldn’t afford to stay there because I was unable to recruit at least three other potential business partners.  Privilege drips from the walls of those buildings.

But the conveners reminded us that this is perhaps the point. Privilege is an everyday reality that benefits white people and creates disadvantages for persons of color. It’s the silent part of structural racism which many white people either don’t see or choose to ignore. Either way, it is antithetical to the sort of world God envisions.

Yet, as we well know, these are not the sort of conversations that happen enough within our congregations.  We may feel overwhelmed by the topic, unsure of where to begin. Additionally, we’re nice Presbyterians whose stomachs get queasy thinking about potentially controversial topics. Given the divisions in our world, sometimes we’re just not willing to broach topics like racism and privilege.

What I’ve learned—both through our own congregation’s efforts and through conversations at the conference—is that reaching beyond our silos of isolation results in unimaginable blessings.

Rev. Steve Miller, an African-American graduate of Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, offered reflections about the racial reconciliation ministry he leads in East Texas.  In his words, Miller works nearly exclusively with “groups of white, conservative Trump-loving Republicans” to create dialogue and lasting change. He has learned what we have learned at Woodlawn Chapel: the best conversations begin by focusing on building relationships. By hearing and honoring each other’s stories, trust emerges. Focusing on love brings people together.

This work is not about making white people feel guilty. It’s not about bashing each other. It’s about creating community. That theme was reiterated in workshops that brought together film makers and world-renowned educators.  Researchers and activists mingled with high school students and middle-aged white guys like me. Keynote speakers connected racism to environmental justice, awareness of differing abilities, and sexuality and gender issues.

I was moved beyond words by the witness of the 125 or so high school youth from across the country. They came from every sector of society and offered a witness for change through storytelling, hip-hop poetry slams, spontaneous laughter and heart-felt tears. Their experiences and commitment are reasons for hope.

Listening to the youth is also where I heard the greatest challenge. Often conversations about racism in the church exclude youth.  Yet the organizers of WPC have found success in empowering youth, motivating them to undertake change. It’s astonishing. Their voices are valued, their presence is encouraged.

I wondered if these same passionate and committed youth would feel welcomed in our churches? Would we see them as leaders?  Would we listen to their stories? Or would we instead ask them why they don’t show up to Sunday school more often? Any effective strategy for racial reconciliation must include youth.

I left Grand Rapids with a suitcase full of resources and plenty to think about. I left more aware of my privilege, and less hesitant to examine it.  I have begun assessing my own automatic responses, and unchallenged assumptions.  I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth. But there are plenty of ways I have benefitted from being white—even when I did not know it.

Privilege is as wild and pernicious as brush honeysuckle. It’s time to name it, own it, and begin to understand just how damaging it is to our environment.

Privilege? Me? Yes, Lord, yes.

Rev. Dr. Chris Keating

View from the Pew – Environmental Racism & Justice

Learning More about Environmental Ministry 
by Sue Bradford Edwards
Member of Florissant Presbyterian Church

When I volunteered to be a part of the FPC Green Committee, I hoped to learn about becoming an environmentally aware church. What I hadn’t counted on was being called on to learn about environmental racism.

On November 14, 2017, I participated in a videoconference put on by the Presbyterian Hunger Program and the Presbyterian Committee for the Self-Development of People. The title itself was more than a little intimidating – Impact of Environmental Injustice on Low-Income and Communities of Color.

This was a videoconference about how environmental problems have a greater impact on marginalized people.  People who are living near the edge in terms of food and shelter suffer the most when the environment is damaged.  The areas that they live in are more likely to be polluted. They often live in low lying areas that are subject to greater flooding. These problems damage their health and impact how long they live.  The problem is compounded by the fact that they often have less power to improve things than people who live in less polluted areas.

This problem was illustrated by a summer 2017 event. The World Council of Churches participates in the annual UN Climate Change Conference.  The island nation of Fiji was the host for the 2017 event, COP23. Unfortunately, they couldn’t actually hold the event in Fiji because of the vast amounts of ocean plastic surrounding their nation. Although Fiji is being forced to deal with the plastic, it is from countries all over the world.

Another example of environmental racism is much closer to home – the situation in Flint, Michigan.  In the videoconference, we previewed a movie about Flint.  We learned that their local GM plant had quit using the water because it was corroding their pipes. Although the auto industry was responsible for the pollution, it made no attempt to stop polluting or clean the water. They also didn’t warn people not to drink it. In addition to the brain damage seen in the children, the lead levels are also contributing to higher levels of heart disease, kidney disease, and lupus.  “This is not supposed to be happening to us in America,” said one resident on the video.

In addition to pollution, environmental racism means not disrespecting communities that consider the land itself sacred. This can be seen in the situation with Bears Ears National Monuments.  Our nation’s newest monument, 1.3 million acres in Utah, was created with cooperation between the Ute, Hop, Pueblo, Zuni, and Navajo tribes.  Following the Civil War, the Navajo came to the area to hide as the army burned their crops.  The people were rounded up and driven to Fort Sumter in the Long Walk. The bones of those who died can be seen along the trails today.

This story should be part of our national memory.  But the current administration is considering reducing the monument to 160 thousand acres in spite of the fact that the tribes consider the whole area sacred and it contains the remains of their ancestors.

As the organizers reminded us Presbyterians are called on to care for God’s creation.  We are also called on to aid “the least,” the poor, the sick, and the downtrodden.  Environmental ministries speak to both of these callings.

What can you do?  When we hear stories like these, we wonder what we can do. 

  • First, consider your purchases. What you buy impacts the area in which it was built.
  • Second, consider the packaging used to transport what you buy.  Minimize plastics like those surrounding Fiji. 
  • Third, consider how you dispose of recyclable materials.
  • Fourth, listen to those whose lives are different from our own.  Speak for them and for our planet.

Helpful Actions & Videos listed by the speakers include:

A petition to save national monuments: http://action.creationjustice.org/p/dia/action4/common/public/?action_KEY=23373

And a community prayer about defending lands that are culturally and spiritually important to Native Americans: http://www.creationjustice.org/blog/pray-for-public-lands-during-native-american-heritage-month

 

Watch the Webinar Mentioned above
Presbyterian Mission Agency Environment Racism Issues

 

 

View from the Pew

I’m just another face in the pews each Sunday morning.  I regularly tune into the evening news going so far as to also watch the News Hour on PBS.  I need not reprise here the scenarios we are all too familiar with.  But perhaps I can share an insight that puts some of the turmoil in greater perspective for me.

Year after year, week after week I have been admonished to “love my neighbor as myself.”  And year after year, week after week this commandment has been expanded, expounded, and explored in countless contexts.  I have little doubt that there be few who have never heard it.  And then I watch the news, and lo!  It’s as if it has rarely ever been heard!

Sometimes we are privileged to experience rare moments of insight; epiphanies, if you will.  Shortly after The Summer of Love in the late 60s, Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel released the haunting, Bridge over Troubled Water, which still stirs my soul.  But it wasn’t until recently, when I chanced to read the story of Christopher Thomas Knight that the essence of the message of that song struck me.

Knight was a man who voluntarily lived outdoors continuously in the Northern Maine woods for 27 years without any human contact.  His tale became known after he was finally captured pilfering a small cache of food from the Pine Tree Camp dining hall for his coming winter sustenance.  As we read, he was extremely reluctant to discuss details of his astounding life story with anyone, including the journalist who took it upon himself to learn why this man endured such a hermitacy.  I found myself paused; a man had elected to remain beyond all human contact in a twenty foot square living room behind a wall of granite boulders over a quarter of his life!

Astounding?!  Well, maybe not quite so astounding when I began to reflect that I, too, tend to live behind walls that I put up, you know; like the walls and defenses I throw up around my heart supposedly to safeguard it.  Even as Knight was forced to reenter society, he refused to venture very far from his “walls” and this shook the author’s overwhelming desire to understand this man.

After two years, toward the end of this story the author learns that Knight wants to walk with The Lady of the Woods, his image of death.  This sends the author flying back from his home in Montana to deter such a choice.  In the last words the author hears from Knight, he’s told of the desperation Knight is living with when Knight concludes with the ominous words, “Something’s got to give or something’s going to break.”  At this point all of Knight’s Stoicism and dense walls seem to collapse momentarily as tears began sliding down his cheeks.  The author becomes overcome as well and there stand two grown men weeping and sobbing.  And then it sounds, my epiphany: tears!  The sign of our deepest vulnerability.

Tears are the evidence of our most profound caring.  My tears are your proof that I have become aware of the depth of your suffering.  And now the message latent in the tune of Simon and Garfunkel: “Like a bridge over troubled water, I will lay me down…” begins its song to me.  Our unchecked tears are those troubled waters separating us.  It is now possible to see that a bridge over troubled water is necessary.  And as we are moved to begin creating those bridges it becomes possible for two hearts to be joined as one.  Then, and only then, does the reconciliation prayed for, the re (meaning ‘again’) + conciliare (meaning ‘to unite’), become truly real.

So pastors and preachers, as you fashion your messages, your stories, your sermons for us sitting in the pews, bring us to those tears that open the way for us all to be healed of our hatreds and divisions.

A time-worn disciple,

Ronald Norgard

Social Perspectives: Voices from the Front

St. Louis Public Radio – Comforting protestor after chemical agent used.

Witnessing in the Public Square

My first few weeks in this position has been spent listening and learning from Giddings Lovejoy staff, team members, and various pastors and congregational leaders.  I am also listening and learning from those called to be public witnesses against established ways of being and doing that support and maintain systems of inequity. With the nonstop activities, I wonder about the state of pastoral care for the protesters. Who’s providing them with emotional, psychological, and physical support?  What is happening behind the scenes that affirm their efforts to be on the front lines. Watching the protests unfold daily has caused me to relook at one of my favorite biblical passages in 2 Samuel.

In 2 Samuel 21:1-14, we find the story of Rizpah, concubine of Saul. She’s an obscure character stuck in the middle of David’s efforts to secure the kingdom. She comes on the scene as David carries out a request by the Gibeonites. This request is a state sanctioned lynching of seven of Saul’s remaining sons whose dead bodies were left in the streets for all to see. Two of the sons were Rizpah’s. As a widow, Rizpah was already in a vulnerable position.  So, what will happen to her for she is now a widowed concubine with no sons?

Rizpah takes refuge in the public square as she squares off with David. She takes up her mantle and becomes a symbol of resistance against murder, intimidation, and the public display of disrespect. Her vigil over the dead bodies is a visibly act of protest. It is a testimony given in silence. Scholars write that Rizpah is someone who “redeems the conscience and the soul” of her community and people. She is “a courageous bold woman who stands in solidarity with the dead and who hold the ‘powers to be’ accountable for their actions. And her protest is not a one-day event, but it lasts for months.

Although Rizpah is alone in the public square, she is not alone. There is no way a person can engage in a disruptive sit-in without community support. Who feeds her while she’s out there? Who cleans her clothes? Who continues the work she is not able to do while holding David and other officials accountable for their actions?  Who makes sure that she is safe while out in the public square alone? Or is she alone?

Protesters need community support. They need not only prayers, but other acts that will sustain them while they seek the justice that God requires. What are we doing within our homes, our congregations, and our jobs that supplements the work being done in the streets?  Whether we agree with the protests or not – what can we do as a presbytery to engage the issues being addressed that are part and parcel of the St. Louis’ legacy?

Rev. Vanessa Hawkins
Designated Associate Presbytery Leader

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Social Perspectives: Voices from the Front

Rewriting The Rules

This is hard.

I get that. This conversation. All the emotions. Our cultural backgrounds and personal relationships histories and experiences and political leanings and theological positions. It makes it hard and complicated and difficult to talk about. But I have this little flicker of a vision or a dream or a hope that church could be the very place we can go and gather and discuss and debate the things that matter most to us, the passions of our hearts and the great questions of our spirits, and disagree and explore and learn and try, and still stay in relationship with one another.  In my dream-vision-hope it is still hard, but it is good and gives us life and reeks of faithfulness and makes God proud.

So here it is.

I am a rule-following girl. Looking at my Facebook posts this weekend, you may not think so, but deep in my heart, I am a rule-following girl. I like to make lists and check things off. As a kid I loved getting gold stars on the chart for assignments completed. I love a super detailed worship bulletin and I still read all the instructions before I even take the pieces out to play a board game. My friends tease me because even jaywalking makes me anxious.

I am a rule-following girl. The rules provide structure and order and help me to understand my proper place here, and how things are supposed to run over there. Maps and rules and agendas and plans are how I make sense of the world and my work my church and often, even, my identity.

And much of that is because the rules are designed to work for me. The rules are designed for my comfort. The rules are designed to keep me safe, to help me advance, to keep me wealthy, to keep me protected. I am a straight, white, cis, Christian, middle-class woman. With a few exceptions, the rules were designed to help me. But the thing I keep learning is, the rules don’t work that way for people who don’t look like me. Friends and neighbors and strangers and scholars and journalists and authors tell me about how the rules in our society hurt, silence, oppress and kill black and brown people, Muslim and atheist people, LGBTQ people, and so many others. I often hear folks who look like me say, “Well, if he just followed the rules.” But then I see another video of someone of color following the rules and getting pulled over and arrested anyway. Of someone going to the bathroom where the rules say they are supposed to and getting assaulted anyway. Of someone trying to follow the rules or obey a command and ending up dead anyway. And so what do I do when the rules that protect and uplift me, are keeping others down? What does God call me to do?

And I hear it in my head: Do justice, seek kindness, walk humbly with God.

For me, doing justice has meant working to change the rules, to make them more equitable. That means doing my research, organizing with others, signing petitions, engaging with elected officials, pursuing legal action, and participating in direct action, too. Yup, that means taking to the streets, and standing there, to demand justice. So, me, the rule-following girl, ends up in the street breaking the very rules that make me so comfortable. Breaking the rules in order to help change them. In order to stop squashing my neighbors. In order to stop killing my neighbors. In order to dismantle the white supremacy that serves me so well. In order to be a part of bringing God’s justice to all. In order to bear witness to God’s rule-breaking love and grace and power, even in this time and in this place.

And it’s super uncomfortable. And it is divisive. And it messes with our commutes and our comforts, our theologies and our understandings, our structures and our community. And that is hard.

And that is also the point.

This is hard. May God be with us as we discuss. May God be with us as we debate. May God be with us as we work and do the justice that is required of us. May God be with us as we love.  As we love. As we love. Amen.

Rev. Erin Counihan
Pastor, Oak Hill Presbyterian Church

 

Social Perspectives: Voices from the Front

The Spiritual Discipline
           of Protest

I learned about civil disobedience from Shiprah and Puah, the two Hebrew midwives who defied Pharoah and refused to kill the Hebrew baby boys – including Moses. I learned about disruptive protest from Jesus, who barged into the temple in a rage, turning over the tables of imperial and economic injustice. So, for me, participating in the protests in St. Louis the past few days has been an act of spiritual discipline.

I have joined three of the official protests since Friday, September 15th, and have attended several planning meetings for clergy and protest organizers. I left the three protests when they were officially disbanded by the organizers partly because my aching knees forced me to, and partly because I wanted no part of the violence that seemed to erupt once the official protest was over. Some of my colleagues have courageously stayed, in order to protect those continuing to express their outrage. But for me, the line between “protection” and encouraging violence is a very thin one, and I want no part of it.

These are some of my learnings and observations from the past 5 days:

  • Holy Disruption, Holy Disobedience, and Holy Disturbance are all spiritual disciplines called for in scripture and modeled by a radical rabbi named Jesus. Holy Destruction is another matter – and such violence undermines the courage and prophetic power of disciplined protest.
  • As a relative newcomer to St. Louis, I am convinced that this city is – and must be – on the front line of confronting systemic racism and white supremacy in our deeply divided nation. The founders of this city arrived with their slaves and so the inequities endemic to this city were there from the beginning. And the old downtown Courthouse still holds the shame of the Dred Scot decision, publicly proclaiming that people of color are not equal to whites. This is our white burden and our calling as people of faith of all colors – to work persistently to repent of the original sin of America and help create a new heaven and the new earth of inclusion, equality, and equity for all.
  • I have been impressed by the intelligence, strategic wisdom, and skill of the official protest organizers – mostly black – some secular and some sacred -passionate, eloquent spokespeople who do not mince words. The white clergy have been asked to provide support and protection and to step back to allow others to lead. This called for humility in spiritual leaders is new and refreshing in my protest experience.
  • For me, the role and power of the police is the most confusing part of this political moment. I have family members who are law enforcement officers – moral, calm, community oriented. And to my eye, the police presence during the official protests was respectful and appropriately peripheral. But the scenes of riot police with pepper spray, trapping both agitators and innocent bystanders in a “kettle” formation, seems both excessive and unnecessary. The criminal justice system in this country, from arrest to incarceration, is both racist and broken – and these reoccurring protests will not – and should not stop – until real change happens.

Many people have asked, “What is the purpose of these protests?  What are the demands that the protestors are asking for?” I have asked the same question. I have finally accepted the answer – which is very simple. What is the demand? STOP THE KILLING!

I hope there will be concrete changes ahead: subpoena power for the recently created Citizens Review Board; implementation of the Ferguson Commission recommendations; independent review for all incidents related to questionable police actions; a cultural transformation within the Metropolitan Police Department.  My tired body may keep me away from some future protests, but my heart will continue to support Holy Disturbance in the Spirit of our Disruptive God.

Rev. Susan Andrews
Interim Pastor, Second Presbyterian Church
September 20, 2017