New Sermon Series: Movement for Black Lives
Beloved Epworth Community,
Grace and peace to each of you. I want to begin with a huge thank you to Susan Jardin, Director of Children and Family Ministries, and Orion Lacey, Director of Youth Ministries, for completing another excellent week of camp—this time for our middle schoolers. Camp is always a highlight of summer, but this summer’s camps took a tremendous amount of preparation and attention to ensure the safety of all. Susan and Orion took on the challenge and our children and youth who participated in camp have had a great experience.
The times, they are a-changing. Daily. And sometimes hourly. In Tuesday’s Update for Extraordinary Times I mentioned that a couple of informal jam sessions have occurred on the front steps of Epworth. We have not advertised these, they are more like pop-ups that one might happen or hear by chance. Our intention was not to draw a crowd but meet the needs of musicians who have few opportunities to play and hopefully brighten a day with music experienced from a front lawn or through a window.
As these impromptu rehearsals occur, we need to keep them informal, socially distanced with masks, and un-advertised. I recognize this is very different from most things at Epworth where we want as many people to come as possible. Because there is very little space around Epworth, the music will primarily be heard by immediate neighbors or those strolling by.
This Sunday in worship, we’ll be continuing the series on the platform of the Movement for Black Lives with a focus on reparations. Reparations for Black Americans can never be reduced to financial terms alone. It is about a holistic approach to the multi-generational harm caused by slavery and the systemic racism in the United States of which slavery was a foundational part. Reparations include dimensions of education, wealth, opportunity, housing, and health. My message will be rooted in Luke 19:1-10, the story of Zacchaeus, the Jewish tax collector for the Romans who wanted to see Jesus. As always the music will be rich, and Susan Jardin (our own Mrs. Rogers) returns with a great children’s message.
Be well, and stay open to the movement of the Holy Spirit,
7/23/2020 Pastor's Column:
Thanks to all who gave positive feedback on last week’s service as we continue with the series on the platform pieces of the Movement for Black Lives. This week I’ll be focusing on the movement platform plank of Divest and Invest which reads:
"We demand investments in the education, health and safety of Black people, instead of investments in the criminalizing, caging, and harming of Black people. We want investments in Black communities, determined by Black communities, and divestment from exploitative forces including prisons, fossil fuels, police, surveillance and exploitative corporations.”
In the sermon, we’ll bring Psalm 91, often called the Psalm of Security into conversation with campaigns to defund or dismantle policing as we know it. As you are likely aware, both Berkeley and Oakland have active campaigns around this, with Berkeley’s City Council recently voting to end the practice of traffic stops by police.
We’ll also hear one more piece from The Revolution Has Come album, a piece entitled Neighbor that contains a poem penned by the Peace Poets called “I Can’t Breathe.” In it, you’ll hear the line “Calling out the violence of the racist police.” This line references the structural violence of policing as it is manifested particularly on Black and brown bodies. All week, our middle schoolers have been in camp with Susan Jardin and Orion Lacey struggling with the question, “Who Is My Neighbor?” On Sunday we’ll lift up their artwork and hear their words as they also give us insight into what a reform of our concept of community security would look like.
Speaking of our neighbors, Epworth’s Accompaniment ministry continues, even while we are sheltering in place. Sanctuary Action Team leader Rev. Carletta Aston has written an update which I urge you to read. Here is an excerpt:
A large part of our current commitment to those on the margins happens through the Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity (IM4HI), a 501(c)3 non-partisan organization in Oakland, California. With other churches in IM4HI, we are one of a number of Nueva Esperanza (New Hope) Accompaniment Teams, (NEAT), which accompany newly arrived immigrants in the beginning stages of their settling in the U.S. who have no support system. These commitments are typically from 6 months to one year.
This effort (which is called accompaniment) includes, but is not limited to:
Accompaniment to appointments with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the Immigration court as well as regular court
Interface with attorneys working to help individuals and families gain asylum
Assistance in accessing community and state services
Fundraising to assist in short term needs for food, housing, clothing and other life essentials
At the present time we are accompanying a woman, and her 18 year old daughter, from Honduras. We have also offered to provide short-term physical sanctuary in our church to one or more individuals who may soon be released from detention.
As noted, accompaniment assignments are officially for 6 months to 1 year. Epworth has accompanied five different families for various lengths of time and continues to be in touch as they build their new lives in this country. For more on this important ministry, click here.
Be well, and know that I am praying for you,
7/16/2020 Pastor's Column:
Beloved Epworth Community,
Thank you for your positive responses to the opening of the summer sermon series based on the platform of the Movement for Black Lives. I felt humbled to begin the series but empowered, too, by the hope of this moment. This week I’ll be focusing on the platform piece that calls us to "Respect Protestors." Protest is one of the most powerful tools in nonviolent resistance and civil disobedience. And it is an ancient to express dissatisfaction with an unjust status quo and demand change. There are many examples of protest in the Bible; I’m preaching from Exodus 32 when Moses left the people in the wilderness and went to the mountaintop to talk with God. Tune in and hear what happens.
We’ll also be featuring the music of Rev. Sekou and the Holy Ghost. During my tenure at the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR), where I served just before Epworth, we were heavily involved with nonviolent response in Ferguson, Baltimore, Minneapolis, New York and other locations where local organizers asked for assistance setting up nonviolent infrastructure. Rev. Osagyefo Sekou was the inaugural Bayard Rustin Fellow and an organizer with FOR. In the year after Michael Brown was shot, he suggested a project to create a new body of “movement music.” The civil rights era of the 60s and 70s was fueled in part by popular music that expressed the struggle. FOR co-produced an album entitled “The Revolution Has Come” that reflects the experience and hope of that early time of the Movement for Black Lives. We’ll share some of this powerful music in Sunday’s worship.
As we take a look at the role of protest this week, I want to make sure you saw the article in the San Francisco Chronicle featuring Epworth’s own Carole Klokkevold. You can find the piece and Carole’s words here. Berkeley of course has a significant history of protest, and I know many of you do as well.
If you drive by the church, you may notice that the rainbow doors have been taken down. These doors were well loved and an important witness, especially after the discriminatory vote of the General Conference of 2019. The doors are being stored and can be put out again after a little restoration, perhaps next year for Pride month and as we approach the postponed General Conference happening next August. We are preparing for a new installation as part of our racial justice response. Thank you to Charlotte Rubens and the Reconciling Committee, Clark Kellogg and the art support team, and Jonah and Don Arreola-Burl who assisted!
Next week, Susan Jardin and Orion Lacey will follow their meaningful and well-run elementary school camp with a camp for middle schoolers. Please be in prayer for Susan and Orion as well as all the camp helpers and campers to have another great week.
Finally, don’t forget BINGO on Saturday night at 7pm on Zoom! Carrie Portis will run the Zoom room and call the numbers while Todd Schafer emcee’s! If you’ve heard Todd emcee the All Church Retreat talent show, you know this will be fun! Zoom Meeting Link - https://bit.ly/EB7-18-20 Or to join by phone, please call (301) 715-8592, when prompted, enter the Meeting ID: 983 4487 6265. You can print out a Bingo Cards here or just play on your computer- http://joescafe.com/marshbingo/ See you then!
Grace and peace,
7/9/2020 Pastor's Column:
Beloved Epworth Community,
This week in worship we’ll begin a new sermon series that will draw from the platform of the movement for Black Lives. The platform was formulated in 2016 in advance of the presidential election, and now has been updated for this moment. Each week, I’ll put a piece of the platform into biblical and theological context, thinking about how what is happening now connects to our common story and how the gospel calls us to respond. I encourage you to read and reflect on the full platform which you can find here.
The series begins Sunday with the goal that was added to the platform on Juneteenth 2020: End the War on Black People. “Since this country’s inception, there have been named and unnamed wars on our communities. We demand an end to state-sponsored surveillance, criminalization, incarceration, detention, deportation, and killing of our people.”
Since the beginning of the Black Lives Matter movement, the call for liberation has been inclusively articulated to include all persons of color, trans and gender non-conforming persons, women and femmes, differently abled persons, immigrants and asylum seekers, and oppressed persons globally. As the movement gained momentum, the phrase “Say their names” became a cry in rallies and protests to recover the identity of the many Black persons murdered by state sanctioned violence. George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Sandra Bland, and Philando Castille are a fraction of the names we lift up as we mourn their passing and demand a new future.
At the same time, we need to know the names of movement leaders who live, lead and stand for justice for all who are de-centered and oppressed. Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometti are credited with founding the Black Lives Matter movement and framing an inclusive struggle led by Black persons. Though the movement primarily considers itself anti-hierarchical with leadership that emerges and evolves, the names of those who continue to represent and galvanize broader and broader participation should be known, too.
The movement leaders end the platform preamble in this way: “We offer this renewed vision in the historic Black tradition of call and response, of principled struggle, and in a continued commitment to deepen our analysis, broaden our visions, and respond to changing conditions.” On Sunday, I’ll share more about the living persons whose names we should also know as we deepen our understanding together in quest of liberation and justice.
Finally, we are looking for a group of persons willing to serve as hosts during our online worship services and virtual coffee hours. The host would be similar to a greeter, and will receive training to know what to do. The group will rotate so no one person needs to be on duty every Sunday. If this is something you are interested in, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Looking forward to seeing you on Sunday!