On February 16, 2020, St. Margaret's named an issue demanding our attention: Deeply entrenched habits of thinking in our culture implant stereotypes about people in our brains. Race is a major basis for those stereotypes. We said then that without more self-understanding, we would never be a truly welcoming community, and many pledged to work toward that self-understanding.
This work has become intensely urgent. Let me be clear about why it is so urgent. In an effort to avoid attracting ill will, many Blacks throughout society have guarded their stories carefully. The very public exposure of several tragic killings caused by pervasive stereotypes (Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and others) has brought all the pain of over 400 years to the surface. We are hearing how small assaults on the soul have been happening daily with our consent if not participation. "The talk" Black parents dread having with their young sons is not about the birds and the bees. It is about the utter necessity of being completely subservient (kneel, hands behind the head, "Please sir, I do not have a gun") in any encounter with the police to avert harm. Parents must constantly balance encouraging pursuit of opportunities with the risk of demeaning experiences for their children. These are only some of the ways self-esteem takes regular blows.
How might our ears and eyes still be closed to so much more? As people who have all vowed to "respect the dignity of every human being," we must ask ourselves that question. And we must commit to changing the cultural norms that are producing this harm. The Civil Rights movement of the last century changed some of the outward elements causing this suffering. Now we must change the inward elements, starting with ourselves. We cannot put all the blame on police brutality. We must look for our part in a broken culture. Why is my skin called "flesh" colored? Do not all colors of skin cover the flesh of God's children?
Discovering all the ways our inner brains direct us unconsciously is very hard work. Changing those directions is even harder. It can only be successful if one is held up by a network of love and support. This is exactly why the church exists. It provides a network of love and support as we pray for God to "finish then thy new creation" and give ourselves to that mission.
The Episcopal Church has excellent tools to help us with this work. Multiple ministry groups in our parish are organizing offerings to use them. Look for their messages of invitation. I pray that we will have 100% participation. May we be useful to God in modeling how God intended life to be.