Beloved St. John’s community,
This week in our deep dive into dismantling racism through Jesus’ Way of Love, we—especially those of us who are white, but all of us in different ways—choose to repent. This week of all weeks, I most mourn being unable to be physically present with one another, sharing hearts and faces and grief. I don’t know where you are. I do know where I am. I know that at such a time as this, I can only see one choice: commitment to the ongoing and utter conversion of life that is following Jesus, which in Minneapolis in 2020, and indeed in the United States after four centuries, can and must centrally involve facing the harm, dismantling racism, and repairing the breach.
This Sunday July 12, we will do a Service of Lament and Repentance that specifically repents of the sins of the Church in colluding with, actively participating in, or being silent about the many sins of our nation against people of African and indigenous descent and other people of color, based on a religious and political culture steeped in white supremacy. White supremacy is brutality masked as love, violence masked as faith. It permeates nearly all of our culture and history, and was deeply enmeshed in the beginning of European Christian involvement in the Americas and in the foundation of the United States. The Church passed papal bulls in the 1400s which came to be called the “Doctrine of Christian Discovery”. These provided religious and legal grounds for explorers to seize people, lands and resources that were not already claimed by Christians. From this has flowed all colonization and extraction of resources, including human beings, from non-European and non-Christian countries. This foundation led to the sin of our own St. John’s, which failed to actively oppose (and may have even been involved in) the Linden Hills neighborhood driving out Rev. Malone, a black pastor who purchased a home a few blocks from St. John ’s on Zenith Avenue, in 1909. St. John’s also failed to strenuously oppose the restrictive covenants that followed in Linden Hills, which effectively created segregation in Minneapolis, as well as areas of generational abundance and poverty.
As members of the Church, we can and must make a full break with the past. We must “turn,” as we say in Jesus’ Way of Love. We cannot do this on our own power. We need the power of Almighty God, Lover of all people, to liberate us from ourselves and the systems our nation has created. Because it is so important that we have this opportunity to worship together, we will have a Zoom Service at 9:00am in which we watch the service video together, pause it in specific places, and invite the community to express your own prayers of confession and repentance for the sins of your own families of origin, of the nation, and of the church. These will be private in the sense that your prayers will not be heard by the whole community (you will be muted), but they will be public in the sense that we will be gathered together, offering our faces and presence with one another across space, but united in Christ’s presence and love. This is a bit like an alcoholic’s fifth step — a moral inventory of our Church which, although painful, is also liberating because it opens us to all the power of God for healing and change. For those of you who may wish further opportunities for confession, I invite any who are interested to email me to set up a personal time for confession of sins over the coming week, using the Book of Common Prayer’s Rite of Reconciliation.
Beloved ones, as Pastor Paul Slack from Liberty Church has advised me recently, guilt is an utter waste of time for moments like this. What is called for is a simple surrender to the greater call of God in Christ, who is asking not less than everything from us. God us asking us to see ourselves truly; see the nation truly; let ourselves feel the full weight of what we see; and then, very simply, just say yes. Say yes to God’s call in Jesus to turn from every aspect of the harm that has been, and turn toward the healing love of God. From that place, we can offer our future community and lives to the power of God’s Spirit for justice and healing our city, our nation and the earth.
This week, I urge you to subscribe to the daily emails in order to fulfill your “assignment.” Otherwise, please meditate and pray over the following scriptures:
As you do so, make time to review your own life and your own family’s history, to see where you benefitted from the oppression of others. Make time to research the Episcopal Church’s history with regard to people of African and indigenous descent. Survey your own life in relation to what has been going on around you. And then, simply touch the heart of God, who is both Father and Mother, and ask for God’s presence with you as you lament and confess that which God’s Spirit brings to your attention.
Followers of Jesus adhere to the mysterious rhythms of death and resurrection, not the logic of cause and effect or guilt and blame. Know that the love of God is the connecting fabric of all that is, and that the power of God is enough to create healing even now, friends, even now.
With love, lament and prayer,