A Note from our Conference Board and Conference Minister
“When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.”
(Acts 2: 1-4 -NRSV)
This Sunday we celebrate the birth of the Christian Church, in those days called The Way. As we celebrate the birth of the church We are reminded that we are called to do more than celebrate the church, but to “Be the Church” in this time and place. And what does it mean to be the church? As our UCC banner, “Be the Church” reminds us, we are the church when we “Reject Racism” and “Fight For The Powerless.”
For us, to be the church is to fulfil the two greatest commandments as shared with the followers of Jesus,
"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.''
This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it:
"You shall love your neighbor as yourself.''
On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets" (Matthew 26: 37-40).
In recent days there have been several instances of racist behaviors in our country – more than a few we are sure, but these are the ones that made the news. The alarming deaths of Ahmad Aubrey in Georgia; Breonna Taylor in Kentucky; and George Floyd in Minneapolis; the actions of Amy Cooper (a white woman) against Christian Cooper (a black man) in Central Park. All these actions are like daggers in our souls. I hope they move us to change practices, beliefs, and actions. It is important that we not simply dismay and pray. It is important that we move into ways of acting to ensure the safety and justice, the care for our siblings on the planet, that we act against the pervasive racial systems which make these actions more commonplace than is ever acceptable.
The Rev. James Gottwald shared, “The three recent killings and the incident in Central Park are good illustrations of how detrimental racism is to all of us, especially black and brown lives. The murders must be condemned but also the deadly atmosphere of racism that leads to the loss of life and jeopardizes our souls to eternal peril. The cost of racism is the loss of our soul in the sense that we lose touch with our humanity.”
We have worked to clarify the love of neighbor in this time of pandemic as social distancing, acting for the safety of others, wearing masks, and worshipping and offering pastoral care virtually. But love of neighbor is more than that. Love of neighbor is seeking out justice, speaking truth to power, and acting for the welfare of all people. This includes those people who look like us, and those who don’t; people who think like us, and those who don’t; those who share our faith beliefs, and those who don’t.
In the past few weeks, the conference has hosted a book study using the book “White Fragility: Why It’s so Hard for White People to Talk About Racism” by Robin DiAngelo. Through this book study we have been made aware of the attitudes which maintain the status quo of white supremacy (not to be confused with white nationalism) which is the integrated systems which maintain the structures, policies, and practices supporting white privilege. Through this study, we moved into an awareness that the double and triple standards in which we move and walk and have our being impact people of color – black and brown people – in ways most of us who are white cannot imagine. It is our hope that “we move and walk and have our being” (Acts 17:28) solely in God. But it is not so.
Today during this season of Pentecost please take action. Please reach out and support agencies and organizations which support open examination of our systems of discrimination and privilege. We are the church. It has never been more important for us to be the church. I pray our actions of being the church will continue to change the world.
As Margaret Mead reminds us, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.” May we change the world for the better.
Rev. Dr. Bonnie Bates and the Conference Board