Beloved St. John’s community,
We have all been anguished by the killing of George Floyd and the tremendous racial injustices this has illuminated in our country. As followers of Jesus’ Way of Love, I believe we are called to pray, lament, repent, and commit to address the sins of racial injustice and white supremacy in Minneapolis—beginning with ourselves. For far too long, our own Episcopal Church has actively supported, or been silent about, the racism in our country.
As I watched the video of Officer Chauvin killing George Floyd with such lack of concern for what was literally happening beneath his knee, I suddenly, and with dismay, saw a mirror into my own life. I have known that these killings were happening—beginning with Emmet Till, Michael Brown, Philando Castile, Jamar Clark, Trayvon Martin, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Eric Garner, Freddie Grey, and so many others—and while I have been concerned, I have not known what to do about it. It’s easy to be overwhelmed—how can I make any difference in something so much bigger than I am? But at a much deeper level, I sense the ongoing invitation from the Holy Spirit is to recognize how deeply God cares about this. Racism is not only a justice issue; addressing it is a central part of what it means to follow Jesus’ Way of Love for those of us who live in the Unites States. Since Cain killed his brother Abel, the blood of Abel and all the innocent cry out to God. Jesus asks us to pray, “thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”—and then to follow him in our thoughts, words, actions and lifestyles, with God’s help. God is always ahead of us, creating the Beloved Community. Our job is to show up with all that we are and have and join God in that work.
I believe the very best place for privileged faith communities like St. John’s to begin is to lament and repent of the outrageous harm that has been done, and to recognize that the white supremacy which is entangled in every part of our national life is also present within us. How could it not be? It is the ocean in which we have lived.
We have a long and deeply meaningful journey ahead of us, and we also have immediate action to take. Although we’ve been taking action already, during a pandemic, it’s more challenging than usual to communicate about this. Therefore, I’ve created a chronicle of what we at St. John’s have done thus far to respond to this crisis:
- I and our Bishops have sent out multiple statements and reflections on current events in emails, videos and sermons; you can find much of it here
- Within a few weeks, St. John’s will launch a multi-week initiative to deeply explore how our faith calls us to repent of the racism in our country, and commit to true discipleship to Jesus’ Way of Love which includes dismantling racism
- St. John’s has created a page on our website to share what we are doing, which will be updated regularly
- I have been checking in with St. John’s families who live in Minneapolis about your physical, emotional and spiritual welfare
- St. John’s has reached out to express love, concern and solidarity to black pastors in North Minneapolis with whom we have a relationship; and a group from St. John’s responded to a request from our partner, Liberty Community Church in North Minneapolis, to help them board up their windows to protect it from white supremacists
- The Children, Youth and Family Minister Search Team has updated the job description to require the Children & Youth Minister to include anti-racism training in consistent curriculum for children & youth at St. John’s
- Steve Schewe has convened a group from St. John’s to prayerfully support black leadership and act to address systemic racism in the Minneapolis Police Department
- Many from St. John’s and around the Episcopal Church in Minnesota have attended multiple marches, protests and online prayer vigils
- We have been using St. John’s private Facebook group to facilitate sharing of immediate calls to action, resources, reflections and needs
- Many St. John’s parishioners have responded to the immediate needs being posted on Facebook by contributing food and supplies to people in need, and by helping to clean Minneapolis
These steps are just the first; many more are needed, and we will take them together. Jesus’ Way of Love has always thrived in times of challenge, and among the poor and marginalized. Our faith can nourish us to do the long work of healing our nation, beginning with our own transformation, with God’s help. Thank you for being a community of loving, generous, active people who are willing to make sacrifices to repair the breach, and to follow Jesus—who will lead us in the direction of justice and healing.