Dear Church Family and Community,
I still remember Amadou Diallo. He was from Guinea but actually born in Liberia. Two bordering countries, but with borders that are largely arbitrary, people all across Africa cross countries like we do states here in America. I was in high school when I learned about Amadou being mistaken by “plain-clothed” New York City officers, resulting in his death. This was around the same time I was learning more about the City of Philadelphia dropping a bomb on the West Philly neighborhood where I finished out the 7th grade.
I still remember Sean Bell being killed on his wedding day. I remember that Eric Garner couldn’t breathe, and still had his breath snuffed out from him. I remember Michael Brown, teenager, left in the street for hours after his death. I remember Laquan McDonald, and that it took over a year for the public to actually begin to learn how he died. My heart still breaks remembering that 12-year-old Tamir Rice was killed playing in a park. Aiyana Jones was killed in front of her grandma, in her own house; she was seven years old.
Walter Scott. Freddie Gray. Sandra Bland. Alton Sterling. Philando Castile. Rekia Boyd. Oscar Grant. Breonna Taylor. George Floyd. David McAtee – and the list is much longer than this. These tragedies have largely happened over the last ten or fifteen years. Some have happened in the last few months. My reality is that I can rattle off these names more quickly than I can recite Jesus’ twelve disciples. I can recall and tell their stories much more easily too.
In this age of online activism and corporate statements, I still continue in my spirit to wonder, does America care about black death? Does the Church? And when we look beyond hashtags and crafted words, is there a true and loving witness to be seen?
I wonder because even our allies in this fight for life and racial justice, post videos and pictures of these tragedies; it raises awareness but also sometimes compounds our trauma. I wonder because our humanity is consistently ignored and some people still think all of this is a new phenomenon. I wonder because we say that we believe that we’re all created in the image of God and in faith that we are the very Body of Christ – but our lives and practice do not always show that in grace and love for our black sisters and brothers.
Last week I posed some of these very questions during our Wednesday night prayer meeting via Zoom (you should join us each week). It was a very heavy prayer service. I did not feel especially vulnerable, but I was blessed to be especially heard. I felt the Spirit moving in and among us, as we joined together in prayer. I was even more blessed and encouraged when a dear sister and longtime member sent me a note the very next day sharing about how she’s using her voice to shed light in this fight for life and racial justice that many of our sisters and brothers are in.
Being the Body of Christ must forever be more than a teaching that we only understand in our minds. This reality must be held onto in our hearts, and matched in our work and in our walk with God and each other. At HBIC, our vision is to be a thriving diverse urban church sharing Christ’s love and serving the needs of our local and global communities. Our belief is that as members of one another, we are not only family, we are Christ’s body; we are one – together in the Spirit, and together by the Spirit. Our prayers, songs, and sermons will confess this – as they did this past week. But my great hope is that our lives, our witness, and our light shines so brightly amongst such darkness – that our world sees us, sees our light, and comes to glorify our Father God in heaven.
Over the last week or so, we have seen people walk in the great American tradition of protest. Some of this protest however, has turned into unbridled anger, frustration, and ugly destruction. Nevertheless, remember as Frederick Douglass taught us “The thing worse than the rebellion, is the thing that causes the rebellion.” Or as Rosa Parks reminded us, “As long as people use tactics to oppress or restrict other people from being free, there is work to be done.”
God calls us to do justice as He does justice, to love as Jesus loved, and to walk by the Spirit in peace with God and each other. To do so, I would like to invite you to:
This Sunday, in place of having a pre-recorded online worship service, we will host a live Sunday morning communion service on Zoom, and we will continue to do so one Sunday a month if we’re not able to meet together in person at our church location beyond June. Our focus for this week’s service will be peace, conciliation, and coming together as the Body of Christ right now. Our prayer is that we all come to the communion with all this in mind. Let us never forget that love is what we do, not just what we feel; love is living like Christ, and not like our world.
Sisters and brothers, our God is righteous and just. Our God is merciful and loving to us. Our God calls us to be faithful to Him, and to one another.
May the love of God always live in your heart, be felt in your work, and be known from your voice.
God bless you all.
Love in Christ,
Pastor Hank (Micah 6:8)
P: (717) 561-2170, ext. 104