The huge snowstorm that hit last weekend (5th largest in area history!) may have impeded travel, may have been fun to play in, and may have even kept you from attending our worship services. But as bad as the weather was, it could do nothing to dampen the spirit – or dare I say Spirit – in this place. We sang, we prayed, we laughed, we gave – a typical time at the best place to be on a Sunday morning…only likely with more gratitude than usual for a warm, safe refuge from the snow. But not everything was business as usual. Pastor Danita began the sermon time thusly:
This time of sermon engagement has been misunderstood as a time when you get to sit back in the comfortable pews and hear something from that antiquated book, telling you how you should live your life, while all the time you are thinking, ‘What time does the game start?’ or ‘When is lunch?’ Too often some have walked away from the sermon time wanting to express opinions, ask questions, or simply be in dialogue about what was said. Pastor Dave and I agree opportunities for conversation need to happen, so we’re not going to stand for you walking away in silence anymore! The sermon is a time for us to reflect and act together for change, to hear in our different voices and to do collectively what we cannot do alone. Not one time did Jesus say to the disciples, ‘sit back and relax, let me tell you a bedtime story that will lull you into a worthless and non-productive existence.’ Starting today you get to participate!
For you see, last Sunday Pastor Danita and I began our month-long sermon series of conversations on race.
We know talking about race makes us uncomfortable. We know talking about race makes us afraid. We also know that talking about race – real, true, open dialogue – is the way we can begin to break through that fear; the only way we can begin to become comfortable; the only way we can be transformed so that we might participate in the transformation of the world. Finally, we know that such conversations don’t just happen. They almost always need to be curated. To that end, Pastor Danita also shared this on Sunday:
First we want to recognize and acknowledge that we consider this to be a safe space. We will not allow judgmental comments that negate another person’s sense of worth. We will listen to one another and share respectfully. No one gets to raise their voice (except Pastor Dave and I but that’s only in an emergency). We are here to live together, to work together, to pray together, to learn together, and to grow together. We want to be more than just a museum for our denomination. We want to make a difference in the world, starting here and now.
I’m telling you all this because I want you to be proud that your church family is having this much-needed conversation. I’m telling you this so you will be prepared for the next chapter of this conversation happening this Sunday, February 8th. I’m telling you this so you can and will participate in this ongoing conversation. We need you to be part of the dialogue. Again, from last Sunday’s sermon time:
If we don’t learn that it was people just like us – our mothers, our uncles, our classmates, our clergy – who made and sustained the modern Civil Rights Movement, then we won’t know we can do it again. And then the other side wins – even before we ever begin the fight. I invite you to take a listen and then…we’ll talk!
Last week we used the movie “Selma” as our cultural touchpoint and asked what you saw and heard in the movie, how it made you feel, where and when do you see racism and hatred today, and how do we respond to hate.
This Sunday we’re talking about language, about the power of words to hurt and to heal. In the coming weeks we’ll look at the notion of a colorblind society and privilege. Plus, as a way to make tangible the idea that Black history is American history, each week this month, Vann and Barb Harris will display a portion of their vast, fascinating, and often unique Black History collection. But theirs is no look-but-don’t-touch, just-move-along museum collection! Check out their display, hold the items, and ask questions.
There are of course numerous resources to help us engage in these vital conversations. The following are a few that are informing what we present. We invite you to read, watch, consider, question, dream, and prepare.
“But I Don’t See You As Asian: Curating Conversations About Race“ by Bruce Reyes-Chow
Peggy Macintosh’s now iconic White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Backpack
Dear White Christians: For Those Still Longing for Racial Reconciliation by Jennifer Harvey
Again, Ta-Nehisi Coates’ long form Atlantic article that is especially important for understanding the history of racism, especially regarding housing. Perhaps surprisingly, Chicago is center stage in that history.
As you read and watch and consider, what do you feel? What questions arise? What engages you or surprises you?
Each week during the sermon time, we’ll continue to ask questions, offer thoughts, and curate conversation in a safe place. So don’t be shy! We want – we need – to hear your voice too as we strive to grow in our love of God by growing in our love for all our neighbors.