Friends and fellow disciples,
Our nation is suffering from two viruses.
The one that has been consuming much of our time and energy this year is a "novel," or new, virus. COVID-19 has killed more than 103,000 in this country and 373,000 worldwide.
We have struggled mightily, and the consequences on so many sectors of our society are nearly overwhelming. We have been confined to our homes for much of the past few months, wearing masks and casting our eyes towards our neighbors with suspicion. Essential medical and other frontline workers have watched hospital beds fill. People have died without a loved one present to hold their hand.
The second virus is one that we have been suffering from in this country for more than 400 years - the virus of white supremacy, racist hatred that has been an indelible part of us from the beginning. This virus is sometimes brazen and overt; more often it is subtle. It is a virus that grips all of us, for we all live in a system designed to perpetuate power and privilege and access for some and to leave others far behind. But every once in while the system breaks out into the open, like in the two videos Alex mentioned in Sunday's sermon - of a white woman in Central Park threatening to call the police on a black man, and of the death of George Lloyd under the knee of a Minneapolis policeman. The rage in response to these events has led to protests and violence in many cities throughout this country.
We have work to do. As a congregation almost entirely made up of people who have never had to bear the weight of racism personally, it is incumbent upon us to listen to voices long silenced. We are called to educate ourselves and to do some of our own work. We are called to pray that God might abolish this virus from our land and from our hearts.
It is a gift to be a part of a connectional church, and within the Presbyterian Church(USA) there are many gifted and faithful voices we must hear. We would like to invite you to take some time today and listen to these voices. Listen. Feel the discomfort - don't rush to try and justify or argue or respond. Just listen, and look inside your own heart.
The first voice is our denomination's Stated Clerk, the Rev. J. Herbert Nelson. This statement is important and can be found here.
The next is from the Rev. Jimmie Hawkins, Director of the PC(USA)'s Office of Public Witness in Washington, DC. He was recently the pastor of Covenant Presbyterian Church here in Durham. Read his article in The Presbyterian Outlook.
Thirdly, the Rev. Dr. Rhashell Hunter, Director of Racial Equity & Women's Intercultural Ministries, offers a powerful prayer.
We challenge you to read this prayer aloud. Say the names she mentions, names of brothers and sisters made in the image of God, who have been killed. Then, say their names again.
We also want you to join us on a journey. Our friends at Myers Park Presbyterian Church in Charlotte have adapted and compiled resources for a 21-Day Race Equity Challenge. For each day of the challenge, read or watch something from the list of resources, then listen and reflect. It is a day beyond Pentecost, but it is never too late to begin this kind of journey.
We cannot physically be together as we would like to be, but we can learn and wrestle and pray. We can name the injustice among us. We can repent of our failings, and we can resolve to be better. Be in touch with any of us - we'd love to talk with you. Our Adult Education Committee and staff are working on gathering additional resources and ways to be a part of positive change in the weeks ahead.
As Cherrie prayed on Pentecost:
Come Pentecost Holy Spirit wind and fire, unite us to change that is more than skin deep. Give us the will and the way to be better than we presently are. Grant us the genius to find the shot, the grit to seek out the herd immunity, the good grace only you know how to impart, that will at long last inoculate us, Lord, against the wicked virus of racism that is in us all and festers within our country. Because black lives matter, Jesus, to you and to us. Amen.
Let us recommit ourselves to do the work required to root out this second virus from among us and within us.
Chris, Cherrie, and Alex