UPDATE ON FIRST CHURCH AND ANTI-RACISM
Rev. Trudy Robinson
October 5, 2020
In May, the whole world witnessed the death of George Floyd. It was one of those moments that sparked change, like the open casket of Emmett Till. I’m not sure why George Floyd’s death did this when so many other Black peoples’ deaths did not. It could be because we were facing a pandemic and all of us were faced with the reality of death in a different way. It could be because we were sheltering-in-place and watching the news with greater attention than usual. It could be because the combination of disease and our uprooted routines created in us an openness to deeper reflection on the way we live our lives.
I am a Christian pastor, so I am inclined to think this moment in history is God at work. Blinding us on the road to Damascus or the grocery store. Giving us a moment of truth and disorientation.
For whatever the reason, a light shone on us all and racism was exposed. Racism, defined not as an individual’s evil act, but as a part of the culture in which we all participate. White, Black, and brown. Now that we have seen, we cannot ignore. The church cannot ignore.
WHAT ARE WE DOING ABOUT IT?
First Church is taking steps to make sure our siblings who are people of color are valued in our world. The Church Council and Trustees have created a Racial Justice Endowment which will allow for a yearly distribution of grants to local non-profit organizations devoted to serving people of color and eliminating racist practices by advocating for anti-racist policies. We anticipate the first distribution to be in November 2020 and the church’s commitment is to continue supporting these efforts through grants long into the future.
HOW ARE WE DOING IT?
The church needs to be involved in this important work. As a pastor, I mourn the way our culture has reduced this conversation to arguments and false dichotomies. Jesus came for all, those in the synagogue and those who were not allowed inside the synagogue. Where the culture divided, Jesus came to unite. I am sickened that our political life keeps us on the defensive as we fight for our beliefs and refuse to see our weaknesses. Jesus drew a line in the sand and asked the Pharisees and the woman caught in adultery: Who is without sin? No one is. Before Jesus, we are all weak and wrong. Through Jesus, we can all be made righteous and whole.
This means that we, as a church, will engage in this work differently than what we see on Facebook, in the news, or on the streets. As Christians, we will humbly listen and learn, reflect on our own failings and abilities, discern the Spirit of God moving, hear the words of Jesus, and act in faith for justice and healing. All of which is beyond party lines and cultural norms. Which is just exactly where we would expect disciples of Christ to be, because that’s where Jesus is. Jesus’ place was not with the Pharisees, nor was it with the sinners. Jesus was above all of those distinctions. So must we be above divisive party politics, one-sided Facebook conversations, and anger that manifests in violence. Jesus consistently offered grace and understanding, so must we. Jesus consistently offered hope and love, so must we. Jesus consistently looked for those who were left out and lost, and invited those who could help to come with him. Jesus called both of those groups to him. We gather, in all of our complicated human diversity, in the loving arms of Jesus, to do all that we can without thought to how much it might cost us. Just like Jesus did.
WHAT HAVE WE TO GAIN?
We do this hard work because Jesus asked us to when he said, lay down your life for brothers and sisters, love your neighbors as yourself, if you’ve done it to the least of these, you have done it for me, and whoever loses their life for my sake, will find it. (John 15:12, Mark12: 31, Matthew 25:31-46, 10:39). We are committed to this hard work because we believe in the life we gain as a result - a life redeemed, restored, and resurrected.
FOR MORE INFO and TO GET INVOLVED
This is ongoing work, and we welcome all who are ready to join the conversation.
- Read the grant committee's guidelines approved by Church Council 9/12/2020.
- Contribute to the Racial Justice Endowment.
- Join Covenant Groups focused on becoming anti-racist, email Rev. Trudy More group studies on racism will be forthcoming in 2021.
Independent Study Resources:
- R-Squared. (a project of the General Commission on Religion and Race of the UMC).
- MountainSky UMC Pilgrimage
An Interfaith Statement of Solidarity with the Black Community and All Who Seek Justice
San Diego Union-Tribune, June 7, 2020