Civil Rights activist, scholar, and singer Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon once said that the reason "This Little Light of Mine" is such a powerful song in the Black Church tradition is because it is a statement of commitment and recommitment to following Jesus. She called it an "I" song, a song that serves as a declaration of intent to remain dedicated to a cause. Claiming the song means that I am going to walk in hope and justice, loving all whom God loves (which includes everyone). It means that I am going to offer my energy, my well-being, and maybe even my life to do what is right. It means that I will not hide my light in order to get by under the status quo.
This little light of mine, I'm going to let it shine.
In Charlottesville, Virginia, this past Saturday, when a diverse group of preachers, rabbis, imams, and everyday folks - some were religious, while others claimed no faith tradition at all - wanted to stand up to a group of armed white supremacists, they linked arms and sang "This Little Light of Mine." They sang their commitment aloud and put their bodies on the line to demonstrate that commitment. Their light would not be overshadowed as it courageously challenged racism, white supremacy, and hate.
If you are reading this letter, there is a strong chance that you are wondering how to help shine God's light more brightly into this world, which continues to be shaped by racism and white supremacy. In times like these, it is good to remember that we are a community of faith. We can serve together, bolstering and supporting one another.
This little light of ours, we're going to let it shine.
If you are searching for a way to let your light shine in the face of racism, the Anti-Racism Resource Team of the Maine Conference of the United Church of Christ would like to invite you to:
- Pray. Pray for yourself and everyone who wants to dismantle racism. Pray for our churches, as we communally discern how to faithfully respond. Pray for those who are racist, that they will be liberated from this sin by God's loving touch. Pray and listen.
- Denounce white supremacy as a sin that is contrary to the Gospel. Do so from your pulpits, via your social media platforms, in conversation with your neighbors. Make it clear: White supremacy is contrary to the teachings of Christ.
- Call on your community leaders to do the same. Ask your pastors to speak out, and then offer support and encouragement as they do so. Call upon your town council members, mayors, representatives, and your governor to be just as clear as you are. Write letters to the editor and to elected officials. Advocate for policies that address systemic racism. White supremacy has been a part of our state's history for far too long. It should no longer be welcome.
- If you are white, take some time to research what it means to live as a person of color or a religious minority in our state.
- Help support justice organizations and build a community of justice seekers. Support and stay in touch with the groups like:
- Learn how to respond to bigotry. At a loss for words when somebody says something racist or discriminatory? The Southern Poverty Law Center produces excellent resources for responding to prejudice and hate. These include:
- Explore the resources on our Maine Conference, UCC Anti-Racism Page:
The full web address is as follows:
- Educate yourself and others. Attend a training that will help you to not only practice talking about race with other people, but also work to disentangle your daily life from the racism that is endemic to American history and culture. Workshops and other training events are periodically offered by the Maine Conference, UCC, as well as by community organizations like Maine Wabanaki REACH (http://www.mainewabanakireach.org/).
- Think about your sphere of influence: your neighborhood, your school, your senior center, your church, your workplace. How can you bring light into your circles of influence through conversations and actions that promote transformation, insight, and change?
We live in challenging times
- and these are precisely the days when voices of morality and love must speak out.
There is no place for white supremacy, anti-Semitism, prejudice, and hatred in Maine, in our nation, or in our world.
As the Anti-Racism Resource Team that serves United Church of Christ congregations in Maine, we call on every heart, soul, mind, and body to speak out and work for change.
There is work to be done in our state when youth of color face unfair and disproportionate contact with the criminal justice system.
There is work to be done in our state when the KKK is bold enough to distribute flyers in Augusta, Boothbay, Freeport, Gardiner, Hallowell, Skowhegan, Topsham, and Waterville.
There is work to be done in our state when new Mainers face structural discrimination and words of prejudice from both our Governor and President.
There is work to be done in our families, schools, faith communities, towns, and cities.Will you help us do it? Your light, with its strength and brightness, is needed. No individual light is too small for the important work that lies ahead of us.
Across our nation, in Charlottesville, and in Maine, people have been shining their light. People have been praying for those who grieve, putting their bodies on the line to stand up for love and justice, speaking out with conviction, and reaching out in love. May we - as individuals and communities - faithfully join them in their ministry.
We are putting the status quo on notice.
May we be empowered to go out into our communities and bring God's illuminating love into the world.
This little light of God, we're going to let it shine!
Maine Conference, UCC Anti-Racism Resource Team
Linette George, Steve Gray, and Allison Smith
David Anderman, Jim Anderson, Steve Carnahan, Chrissy Cataldo, Alyssa Lodewick, Martha Phillips, Sarah Pringle-Lewis, and Bob Sandman