Last weekend our nation witnessed a truly horrific moment as white supremacists demonstrated in Charlottesville, Virginia. Many suffered injuries and a young woman died in the violent aftermath of that protest and counter-protest. There may be a sense of despair seeping into our hearts, despair that our society has come to this time of hate. However, we know that our God can change hearts, and we can follow in the footsteps of Jesus himself–who stood for extravagant welcome and love that knows no bounds. Some of the local clergy in town (including me) will be having an Interfaith Prayer Service on Friday August 18th at 7:30 PM at Congregation Ahavath Achim (84 Lebanon Ave, Colchester) in response to the recent violence in Charlottesville. This service is open to all on Friday evening, and we hope that you will join us. Come to be with one another, to pray, and to seek healing for our nation.
Additionally, I wanted to share the response to Charlottesville from both the United Church of Christ and the American Baptist Churches of Connecticut.
May we continue to embody and enact God’s love in the world.
Grace and Peace,
August 15, 2017
As a response to the violent clashes between white supremacists and counter demonstrators in Charlottesville, Va., that left a woman dead and 19 injured, the national leadership of the United Church of Christ issued this Pastoral Letter:
Last weekend, a group of white supremacists came to Charlottesville, Virginia, and incited violence to protest the removal of a Confederate monument. Although protest is the bedrock of our nation’s democracy, coming in riot gear proves that they intended to do more than simply protest.
We, the Council of Conference Ministers and Officers of the United Church of Christ, strongly condemn the acts of violent hatred expressed by these white supremacists, Neo-Nazis, and Ku Klux Klan members. Their white robes and burning crosses were replaced with polo shirts, khakis, and tiki torches, while their lynching was replaced with a speeding car barreling through a group of peaceful protesters with the intention of harming and killing others, which it did. Their vitriolic hatred is the same.
We confess that the events of Charlottesville are systemic and communal expressions of white privilege and racism that continues to pervade our nation’s spiritual ethos. And if we only condemn the acts of August 12, 2017, without condemning the roots of racism, which perpetuate discrimination in our American schools, justice system, business, and healthcare systems, then we have sinned as well. We must work toward the Kin-dom of Heaven here on earth now for the sake of a just world for all.
We do this by committing to follow the ways of Jesus, who stood with the oppressed, spoke out against political and religious powers, and courageously embodied a just world for all as he sought to create it. Today, we must follow the ways of Jesus in addressing the hatred of white supremacists and racists among us.
Our local UCC churches must be true solidarity partners with those who march in the streets. Our UCC churches are encouraged to move from the sanctuary and walk alongside other clergy and community leaders who seek to resist, agitate, inform, and comfort. We must resist hatred and violence. We must also agitate ourselves, and our neighbors to acknowledge any racism within or among us. We must inform ourselves, and our neighbors what our sacred stories reveal to us of a just world for all. We must lament and grieve with those who are injured or murdered during violent confrontations with those who mean us harm. And we must comfort those who have been discriminated against with the transformative love of God.
As we go forward, let us model the legacy of activism through our sacred call given to us by our UCC ancestors: May we be prophetic truth-tellers like our Congregational Christian forebears, who marched in public squares demanding equality for all. May we serve others, and remain faithful witnesses like our Evangelical and Reformed forebears, who tended to the needs of the forgotten. And may we be courageous like our non-UCC forebears, who left their spiritual home and joined the UCC in order to fully live out who God created them to be.
In the days to come, may God’s truth, mission, and courage be our guide to embodying the Kin-dom of Heaven here on earth.
Call to Prayer for International Peace and National Reconciliation:
Two confrontations are dominating the news: tensions between the United States and North Korea and White Nationalist marches in Charlottesville, VA. As your Interim Executive Minister, I call our family of faith into prayer for peace and reconciliation. American Baptists have long advocated for diplomacy over military conflict and for equality and dignity in the human community.
Our General Secretary, the Rev’d Dr. Lee Spitzer writes:
“The whole world is watching the war of words escalate between the United States and North Korea. North Korea’s apparently successful development of its nuclear weapons arsenal threatens to destabilize Asia, forcing us to recognize that 25 years of diplomatic efforts to prevent such nuclear proliferation have failed. Since the end of World War II, American Baptists have advocated for nuclear disarmament in many ways, and surely in this current crisis, no thinking person would want to see either side resort to the use of such weapons or to precipitate armed conflict in any form. Our peacemaking mandate insists that countries find diplomatic means to settle disputes and differences.”
“… Let us encourage our pastors to remind our membership that ABCUSA stands for the full equality of all Americans and rejects racial prejudice and specifically, the contemporary ugly resurgence of so-called “white nationalism.””
As we are called to live the values and teachings of Jesus, so we are also called to pray for those values – love, peace, mutuality, forgiveness, persistence in personal centeredness, even when being judged and condemned by less forgiving souls, kindness in relationships, imagination and vision in problem solving, and hope in all circumstances. Through prayer, we truly believe that God makes a way, even when it appears there is no way.
Remembering that we are the hands and feet of Christ, I humbly submit this call to prayer.
Interim Executive Minister of ABCCONN