Beloved Epworth Community,
As the coronavirus crisis began, we added several new weekly email communications with you. Tuesday’s message is called Epworth Update for Extraordinary Times and is meant to focus on direct impact and information related to the pandemic. But today I want to focus on the other crisis of our nation, which sadly is neither new nor are the current uprisings extraordinary (though I do think they are unique and I’ll get to that below.)
As we all grieve and respond to the murder of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Steven Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, I want to say a particular word of sorrow and solidarity to members of our church who are Black and those whose families—spouses, children, siblings, cousins, parents—include Black members. I am deeply sorry for the way that the losses, angst, anxiety and perpetual manifestation of racism and white supremacy crowds your days and thoughts and threatens always to steal your energy and life force. Your pain is felt by every member of our community, even as we have different experiences and cannot know the exact personal experience of another. At Epworth we are always striving to be Beloved Community. We don’t always get it right, but as Bishop Leontyne Kelly said, “We believe that if we can get it right in the church, we can get it right in the rest of the world.”
A couple people have emailed me and wondered why our service on Sunday did not address George Floyd’s murder and the acts of protest we’re now engaged in. If you haven’t read what I wrote last Tuesday and Thursday, I would direct you back to those messages. On Wednesday, my communion meditation centered around George Floyd and the Movement for Black Lives. I will focus my communion message there again this week. A couple folks have asked particularly about DS Staci Current’s sermon. Our videos were created earlier in the week; DS Staci recorded her video before George Floyd died. A district pastor reached out to DS Staci Saturday and asked if she wanted to add anything to her message. She responded with these words,
“Over the last three weeks we have been assaulted with a pandemic that has claimed over 100,000 lives in this country alone. While sheltering in place we have witnessed the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and now, George Floyd. As a black woman, wife and mother I have experienced the wide range of emotions from anger to grief to deep gratitude for the blessing of my husband and son still being able to breathe.
I recorded the Pentecost sermon for our district on Monday. This was before George Floyd was murdered by a police officer’s knee on his neck for over 8 minutes. I am glad I was able to record on Monday because Tuesday until now have found me numb and in grief. I do not have any words to add to my sermon in light of George Floyd’s murder. I only have tears and wailing to contribute. I have a righteous indignation that wants to yell and scream at the top of my lungs and turn the tables over...like Jesus did when he cleaned the temple. I only have the weariness that I have carried every day for the past 48 years that I’ve lived in this brown body. I only have lament that right now feels too raw to put out for public consumption. To be honest, I am tired of explaining and trying to interpret this particular pain.
I will say this much. The main point of my sermon was that God gives us “Power for the Purpose.” Now more than ever, we need the power of God to pour into us to empower us to change a world that seems impossible to change. George Floyd, and Eric Garner before him, gasped and said “I can’t breathe!” Racism and white supremacy are choking the air out of our country. We desperately need the Holy Spirit to breathe on us this day and give us strength, power, and grace that we might be able to live the abundant life Jesus died to give us all. May it be so.”
Indeed, May It Be So! At Epworth, may we use this moment to double our contributions to racial justice organizations and bail funds and recommit to anti-racism work in our community. The following list includes resources shared with me by Dianne Rush Woods (which is drawn from a list put out by Equality California in solidarity) and resources I have also found helpful:
Read and engage with anti-racism literature and articles. A list of resources has been compiled by FightForBreonna.org HERE
Donate to groups/funds which are on the front lines of the ongoing protests, including Minnesota Freedom Fund, Reclaim the Block (Minneapolis), I Run With Maud, Justice for Breonna Taylor Petition and Fund and National Bail Out.
Vote for pro-equality candidates and candidates of color, up and down the ballot. Check out our Election Center to see a full list of our endorsed candidates
The United Methodist General Commission on Religion and Race in this link, General Secretary Erin Hawkins responds to George Floyd’s murder
The racial justice programs from Just Faith, which Rev. Debbie Weatherspoon shared with us when she preached at Epworth in February
There is much we can do in terms of reading, educating ourselves, and making financial contributions. But we also need to be much more engaged in movement work and with the lives and needs of Black Americans in our own community. In the coming weeks, I’ll be working with our Racial Justice Task Force and Epworth’s leaders to map out a comprehensive plan of action for Epworth.
In the meantime, may we know that the God who came to us as one of us has endured what we endure, and has given us Power for the Purpose to which we are called. Grace, peace and love to each of you.