A BLACK LIVES MATTER banner will be installed on Redeemer’s front lawn very soon. This was unanimously approved by the vestry on June 17 in response to a request from our Racial Equity Action Group (REAG) following REAG’s June 10 meeting. These were the first such meetings following the murder of George Floyd on May 25 in Minneapolis.
The banner represents a public statement by Redeemer that we stand in solidarity at this moment in our nation’s history with Americans seeking racial justice and healing. This honors our baptismal vow to “strive for justice and peace among all people and respect the dignity of every human being” as well as The Collect of Our Parish: “Loving God, who calls us to restore unity and justice, your son Jesus teaches us that love brings us together in a community where all are welcome. Help us deepen our faith and relationships so that we can grow our community to make a difference within and beyond ourselves, through Jesus Christ Our Redeemer.”
A good theological reflection is to be found in this excellent August, 2017 Anglican Theological Review article To Serve and Protect: The Police, Race, and the Episcopal Church in the Black Lives Matter Era written by the Rev. Gayle Fisher-Stewart who, in addition to being an Episcopal priest, is a woman of color and a retired police officer. She says, “The church must also heed the call of the Black Lives Matter movement, which says that black lives are important to God because they reflect the imago Dei… To say that ‘Black Lives Matter’ is a call that recognizes the need to bear witness to the experience of dehumanization and death at the hands of the state, and the leaders of Black Lives Matter had no doubt that ‘[the] maltreatment [of black bodies] was a violation of their dignity that they could no longer bear in complete silence.’ And neither can the Episcopal Church.” Further, “the ability of the church to engage in the work of God’s justice and provide the opportunity for deep conversations of healing will require us to ‘stretch into new postures and gestures of truth-telling and connection.’” This article or the freshly published (7/6/20) book/anthology she edited Preaching Black Lives (Matter) might fuel some good conversations in an adult formation class this fall. Another conversation possibility: “Black lives matter” is both a statement and a sometimes-controversial movement—where are we on that?
What about “All Lives Matter?” Our Presiding Bishop Michael Curry spoke clearly and concisely to that point in this 2-minute video posted January, 2016: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bXRn0IxSe_s
Following vestry approval, REAG member John Bernhard did the legwork to actualize the banner in coordination with Christopher Huggins and Lee Noel Chase. He also reached out to Follen Church parishioners for lessons learned from their experience. Our banner is being printed by the same Black-owned business as Follen worked with–Calloway Graphix–and per Follen’s advice, we are purchasing two banners in anticipation of vandalism to the first. The banners on order are 2’ x 7’ in size and cost $150 apiece, so total cost=$300. Many thanks to all who helped on this.
Of course, a banner is one thing and the work of dismantling systemic racism still lies before us and requires long term commitment. May we all commit to do our parts in keeping with the scripture cited by Rev. Fisher-Stewart in her ATR piece, Luke 4:16-21:
When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.’
And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, ‘Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’