Dearly Beloved Transfiguration Parish Family,
These are times that try our souls. We are witnessing a perfect storm – a toxic stew of quarantined social isolation combined with coast-to-coast explosive protests, looting, violence and social unrest not seen since 1968. While we admit our local Eagle County community seems far removed from the visceral chaos experienced elsewhere, we also cannot deny the raw, palpable emotion so many fellow citizens evidence right now. We have been asked by many ECOT members for a response.
The Apostle Paul taught Christians that when one weeps, we all cry just as when one celebrates, we all rejoice. This is a moment to weep. The presenting challenge is pervasive and systemic racism which manifests itself with such demonic force that not only many Americans but also citizens around the world feel compelled to confront passionately. Some say racism is America’s original sin, one which neither a brutal Civil War nor a decade long 1960’s civil rights revolution could decisively conclude. This moment is an invitation to consider how we might move towards a more perfected union that fulfills national promises of personal freedoms to all citizens in a just and equitable society where all can reach towards life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in safety.
The Episcopal Church has labored toward this goal for decades as our leadership has repeatedly named racism as a sin we must identify, confront and extinguish as a church and a nation. Our leadership, of the first African American Presiding Bishop and Colorado’s first African American diocesan Bishop, leads us in meeting this moment with compassion.
We live in a fallen world infected by the corrosive contagion of sin. Sin, here, is easy to name and see: a knee crushing a windpipe of an African American man, summarily killing him. Followed by the wanton, senseless destruction in premeditated riots. Followed by violent responses to non-violent, peaceful protesters. Confusion, fear, rage, anxiety, frustration, spiritual isolation.
Other sin is far more difficult to confront even within ourselves, more corruptive and corrosive over time. Like a splinter in the foot which continues to work its way deeper and deeper down, we feel the pain of it even though we cannot see it clearly. Systemic racism is similar, impacting those directly affected with immense pain while others never even notice.
Racism is not new nor unique to America. Mosaic law emphasized the importance of respecting foreigners and integrating them into the community even as subsequent generations evicted, excluded and shunned those not considered appropriately Hebraic enough to be properly Israelite.
Jesus routinely shocked his disciples and his contemporaries by speaking with many marginalized 1stcentury persons: the man born blind, Zaccheaus the hated tax collector, the Samaritan woman at the well, and numerous unmarried women. His parables teach us to reach across cultural and religious divides to share God’s grace with all people (the Good Samaritan and Lazarus and Dives come immediately to mind). One place in Scripture where we clearly see Jesus’ explosive, righteous anger is towards those who had created a system that ensured that only certain people were able to enter the temple in Jerusalem, or those who perverted sacred worship space for personal economic benefit. Systemic exclusion from temple worship or God’s gracious attention was anathema to Jesus. We see definite parallels in Jesus’ critique to our current moment.
As Episcopalians, we regularly confess our sins using language of things done and left undone. Systemic racism is an urgent example of something left undone which we no longer have the luxury to ignore and keep undone. This multi-generational task is about inhabiting the Kingdom of the Heavens with God’s love present for all people.
As a wise rabbi once taught, we are not personally responsible for the result but neither are we relieved from making the effort to successfully complete it. For us this task is not about politics, ideology or even the passions of the current moment. It is about deploying spiritual fruits like love, peace, patience, joy, gentleness, forgiveness, self-control and extreme compassion….simple to read in scripture when life is easy but so crucially vital when we are stressed, depleted and in pain. It is about naming historic, systemic racism as sin which wounds all of us. Quality pastoral care teaches us to listen to others narrate their story their way and not frame their story our preferred way. We are striving to listen, to care and to respond.
We ask ourselves and all of you these urgent questions:
- Where is God’s invitation to us personally in this moment? We are all called to search our conscience as Christians and confess those things done and left undone which do not reflect God’s nature, purpose and plan for us. How have we participated, either willingly or probably unknowingly, in structures which collude with systemic racism?
- What are we called to do at this moment? Our baptismal covenant binds us to love one another as we love ourselves as we promote the dignity of every human being. We also agree to cooperate with God’s reconciling love manifested through Jesus Christ. How do we enact and deploy God’s reconciling love to more effectively promote an equitable dignity in this moment? How do best meet this urgent task here and now?
- What do we need following such a traumatic period in our nation? The Apostle Paul’s crystal-clear presentation of the spiritual fruits gifted to every believer is balm to our souls and hopefully to yours also.
- How can we support you, provide resources about anything presented here, and uplift you in this stressful time?
This can be an amazing time of growth, healing and strengthening for our church and our community. You remain in our daily prayers and frequent thoughts!
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Father Brooks Kieth Mother Emily Lukanich
Rector and Senior Pastor Vicar