Beloved St. John’s community,
In these very challenging times, on the eve of the national election, I have said I believe with all my heart that we are called to “throw ourselves into the arms of God.” We cannot become people of healing for the world unless we ourselves are healed. There is tremendous hope in the humble realization that we too need transformation in order to join God’s work to create the Beloved Community. There is tremendous joy in discovering that always, we can begin again, joining Jesus to learn to love God with all our hearts, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. From this place, I invite you to join the Episcopal Church in Minnesota in a prayer vigil on Tuesday, November 3, praying for our nation. I also wanted you to know that our Bishop Craig Loya is planning to write a pastoral letter for all ECMN after the election, and this letter will be read on Sunday morning, November 8, during the worship service.
Also from this place of humility and hope, I write to share with you what the Racial Justice and Healing team has discerned God’s Spirit is calling St. John’s to do next. As you recall, this summer we deeply explored following Jesus’ Way of Love by dismantling racism. Since then, we’ve listened to all of you and to the Spirit in various ways, and here is what we have found. We believe that the Spirit is calling us to follow Jesus’ Way of Love by centering the work of racial justice and healing at St. John’s. Given the extent and duration of systemic racism in our nation and city, to follow Jesus the Healer means to address the sickness and sin of racism in our history and current reality. We have presented this to the Vestry for their review, and have received their heartfelt affirmation and feedback. Please review the three paragraphs in the link above, which explain more about how we came to this conclusion.
We believe God is asking us to make this shift through four major focus areas: (1) grounding the work in the Way of Jesus; (2) continuing to learn about racism in order to uproot it; (3) taking specific action to work toward racial healing and justice; and (4) cultivating relationships across lines of difference. Within each of these four major categories, we have specific experimental action steps we’ll engage and learn from within the next six months, after which we will review and revise them based on what we are learning. We’ll repeat this every six months for the next two years.
To be clear, we are not seeking to become a secular social justice nonprofit. We are not saying that racial justice and healing are the only expression of Christian faith or that we will cease all other ministries. We continue to care for our members, for children, youth & families, for the earth, for LGBTQ folks, for our international partners, and our wonderful history as a church. We do believe that the Gospel Jesus taught and lived is about healing, wellbeing, and justice for all people. Racial healing and justice are not, therefore, an “add-on” to Christian faith. They are at the heart of what it means to love our neighbors as ourselves in this place at this time in history.
While the nation is deeply troubled, and the continued presence and potential for violence is real, we are called to a new hope, a new joy, and deepened commitment to Jesus’ Way. No matter what happens on Tuesday, we know our way forward. It is the joyful insistence that God’s Beloved Community –the kingdom of heaven—includes the flourishing of all people, and that we will as a community take consistent, steady action toward racial justice and healing by following Jesus’ Way of Love.
I am asking several things of each of you as we go forward:
- Please set aside 30 minutes in the next week to prayerfully read and reflect on the document that describes St. John’s decision to center the work of Racial Justice and Healing.
- Please consider what most resonates for you about this significant shift in the life of St. John’s, and what questions, concerns or fears you have about it. Ask for God’s wisdom for you in both responses.
- Please pray daily for three things:
- Our nation, the election and its impact on systemic racism and other aspects of our common life. (ECMN prayer vigil on Nov 3 is one option)
- St. John’s discernment to follow Jesus’ Way of Love by centering the work of racial justice & healing, with God’s help
- Your own life, the unique gifts God has given you, and how the Spirit might be asking you to participate in the Spirit’s movement at St John’s to work toward racial justice and healing
- Please plan to attend the Adult Forum on Zoom on Sunday, November 22, in which we will discuss this focus in the life of St. John’s.
I will be providing regular updates about our Racial Justice & Healing focus areas in the coming weeks and months, including ways you can get involved. For example, as part of our “learn” focus area, we are offering a 10-session series called Sacred Ground beginning in early December that you can sign up for if you wish.
I am deeply moved to walk together in this life-giving, challenging, but ultimately Jesus-centered work, with God’s help. Let us love one another, and our neighbors, as God has loved us. Let us receive the Spirit’s liberation and healing, and become people of healing for our city and our nation.