Dear People of Christ Church,
This week the wider Episcopal Church begins their ten day General Convention, an every-three-years bonanza of church policy making and community building. On the table this year is a pending change to the canons on same gender marriage (which is permissible in many places, including Massachusetts, but not officially the law of the whole church), the election of a presiding bishop (the head of the whole shebang—Katharine Jefferts Schori finishes her nine year term), and many, many, many other proposals of varying significance.
The violence in Charleston, though, and racism in America, is still more on my mind—it feels a bit beside the point to argue the finer points of church governance (will our currently bicameral system go unicameral? Oh, the suspense!). I read one reflection from Convention about “The Elephant in the Room” being that the African Methodist Episcopal Church was founded because African Americans were not welcome in those white-dominated denominations in their day. The Episcopal Herald author offers,
In the same way that a budget is a moral document reflecting our values, perhaps it is worth considering how the agenda for our time together reflects those same values. If one were to look at the proposed agenda, would it be clear as to where God is calling us to build the Kingdom of God in our communities throughout the world?
This is a good question for all of us engaged in church work to ask—how much of our vestry agenda every month directly relates to sharing the good news of God in Christ that we are reconciled, beloved, and freed for the work of being the body of Christ in the world? How are we engaging, every day, to confront all of the “evil powers of this world that corrupt and destroy the creatures of God” as we promised in our baptismal covenant along with Jane Harvey on Sunday? Instead of being fully focused on being hands and heart of Christ, how often do we instead flit in and out of doing that work? A special collection here, a fiery sermon there, and the box checked off of the to do list?
This Sunday after church, I’d like to invite anyone who is interested to spend some time looking at the Charleston Syllabus, an initiative begun by Brandeis professor Chad Williams. Both the Charleston doc and similar work on the Ferguson Syllabus preceding it (begun by Marcia Chatelain) are crowdsourced in-flux documents—(to see the whole conversation, see them on twitter at #FergusonSyllabus and #Charlestonsyllabus). So we’ll look at the list from the African American Intellectual History Society. What have you read? What do you want to read? How shall we work closer to home, to change ourselves as we change the world?
Finally, I want to offer you this prayer from Clementa Pinkney, offered just 2 months before his death. May we all be a dwelling place for God.
“Lord of all the names that we call you, we invite you into this space today. We pray that you would fill this place, Emanuel, with your love.
May we remember that the name Emanuel means ‘God with Us’ and so we invite you and we welcome you into this place.
And God we pray that you would make ‘Emanuels’ of all of us, that we may be filled with your love, for we know that only love can conquer hate, that only love can bring all together in your name.
Regardless of our faiths, our ethnicities, where we are from, together we come in love. Together we come to bury racism, to bury bigotry, and to resurrect and to revive love, compassion, and tenderness.
We pray that you would bless and empower all who are here to reach and to feel the love and to share the love.
We ask all now in reverence and holiness, may we together say, Amen.”
From Rev Mae Elise Cannon’s 5 Things White Christians Can Do in Solidarity with our Brothers and Sisters of Color