This summer we have witnessed not only the suffering and trauma of the coronavirus, but also the suffering and trauma of racism. We have seen Black men get shot by police, again and again. We have seen Black women held on the ground at gunpoint in front of their babies, mistaken for "someone else." We have seen grown men weep on television as they speak of their fear for their Black sons. And we have seen NBA coaches, major corporations, local businesses, city governments, universities, sports teams, white suburban neighborhoods, newspapers, Senators, and yes, CHURCHES, all affirm that black lives matter. Yes, black lives matter! -- our neighbors who are Black are made in God's image, just as all people are. And we follow Jesus who commands us to love our neighbors, to love one another as he loved us, and to lay down our life for one another.
It seems ridiculous to need to say that "black lives matter." And yet, we all know that our country has a 400 year history of racism, discrimination and violence against Black folks. And racism remains in our society. It is, unfortunately, baked into our structures and assumptions, into our language and institutions. People of color have known this for a VERY long time. But now it seems that white folks in America are waking up to these truths in a new way.
And so at its July meeting, our Governing Board voted unanimously to purchase and hang a banner showing our support for racial justice. (We are certainly not the first church in the area to do so!) While I was on vacation at the time of that meeting, I understand that there was agreement that we should not stay silent, and that our faith compels us to state where we stand.
I am so glad we are putting up this banner! Because it is who we are as Christians: we love our neighbors, and so we stand with one another and seek justice for all. It is who we are as West Parish Church: the Welcome Statement we adopted over 17 years ago affirms that people of every race and ethnicity are welcomed and loved. Just as our rainbow flag has been a beacon of welcome and love to LGBTQ folks, and anyone seeking a welcoming Christian home, this banner will let the community know that West Parish Church acknowledges the reality of racism, and we seek to build a better world. This is not a partisan statement; it is a statement of our faith and our values.
If you haven't seen it, I also commend to you the statement from 26 Andover and North Andover faith leaders. In part we state: "As clergy of various faiths, we seek justice and equity for all of God’s people. We are grieved by the brutality and racial injustice in our country, especially when coupled with the COVID-19 pandemic. We believe that we are called to find our way through this together, with one united voice, standing in solidarity and boldly proclaiming: Every black life matters. This is not a hashtag. This is not a slogan. This is a God-given moral truth." Yes.
If you have questions or concerns about this banner, about the stance of West Parish Church, or any related question, please do not hesitate to reach out to me, or the Chair of Governing Board, Pam Denny. For some of us, these are not easy topics to discuss, and yet we do so with trust and respect, knowing that the Spirit binds us together. Be well, Good People! And let us continue to build God's kingdom of justice and peace together!