Maya Angelou once said, “Prejudice is a burden which confuses the past, threatens the future and renders the present inaccessible.”
As I pray, write and think about Ferguson, I, like many of you, am searching for words and thoughts that name our sin, and also serve to enter on the way toward wholeness in a very broken time in our nation’s history. So what words do we offer? How do we resist the sin of our past, and make accessible in the present a way toward righteousness and peace?
Recently, I read a blog by Rachel Held Evans who suggests that the place to start in our reflection on Ferguson is with lament. As Paul says in Romans 12:15, “weep with those who weep.” Then listen and learn. Then finally “loosen the chains” (Isaiah 58:6) with informed, prayerful action.
I think she’s right. We can lament, listen, act. Ferguson challenges us all to engage…to listen to the pain…to name our fears…to hold each conversation in God’s loving embrace, knowing that we are all children of God.
As I think about Ferguson, the greater St. Louis community and our nation, I picture Jesus weeping at the pain of a city, conversing at table with people with whom he disagreed, standing up for the downtrodden, being willing to die for the reconciliation of us all to God and to each other. I hear the risen Christ calling us to cast aside fear and instead to lament, listen and act as God guides us, each in our own place.
Disciples have several possible points of beginning. We have been working for decades through Reconciliation Ministry, trying to heal the deep wounds of racism as they are manifest in our church and communities. More recently, we’ve shaped a Pro-Reconciliation/Anti-Racism priority to take the work deeper, to understand how systemic racism and white privilege work to frustrate well-intentioned actions by individuals and congregations of all ethnicities. Last summer the General Assembly adopted an Item for Reflection and Research on Incarceration, Justice and Restoration, calling the church to study and action.
In the meantime, please join me in continued prayer over Ferguson, and all our communities, that we may together find the pathways toward healing and hope, reconciliation and wholeness.