It has been a difficult spring for our culture. COVID-19 has reshaped our lives and disproportionately affected our communities of color. In the midst of this pandemic, African-Americans have died tragically and senselessly. Most recently, George Floyd had his life taken while in police custody. Mr. Floyd was known for his Christian faith and work to make his community better.
This incident has once again drawn attention to the plight and pain of African-Americans in the United States and the challenges they often face simply living day to day. One of the early American Quakers, John Woolman, in his plea to free slaves wrote that “the color of a man avails nothing, in matters of right and equity.” Indeed, he noted, the African-Americans’ present condition among us “requires our serious consideration.” We have been considering for more than 300 years, and the United States continues to suffer from its history of racism. We must find a way to create a more just society.
The great apostle Paul wrote that we are all one in Christ – all unique creations of God. Yet, we continue to live in broken relationships and broken communities. Christ’s call on our lives requires us to build a community that extends beyond racial differences. As John Woolman believed, in the kingdom of God the color of a person’s skin should avail them nothing. Our hope lies in the possibility of genuine redemption and resurrection. It is hard work to be agents of reconciliation in a world that is so divided and angry, and we must rely on the Spirit of God for help.
One of our employees of color recently relayed an experience where he chose to not take a twilight run in his suburban neighborhood. “Not that I am fearful of law enforcement or of my neighbors. The knowledge that they are fearful of me just because of my presence in a given circumstance makes them a threat toward me.”
Talk of mere reconciliation did not resonate with him.
“When I think reconciliation, I think of two parties who have aggrieved each other working things out … I am not wanting a reconciliation with a racist past, I am seeking acknowledgment of my humanity, equitable treatment now and systematic change. I want a future that affords me the freedom to go for a run in the evening without fear of not returning home.”
May we ensure that justice is found alongside reconciliation. We conclude with this prayer from Dr. MaryKate Morse, dean of our Portland Seminary.
A prayer of Lament
Our loving God, our hearts are broken. We grieve the violent deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor. We confess we live in a country where skin color can result in death on the playground, on the sidewalk, in front of a store, crossing a street, sleeping in bed, or on the ground with a knee on your neck. We lament a country where mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, friends and neighbors, and little children and young people must struggle with the realities of racism and injustice every day of their lives.
Holy Spirit, we pray for our brothers and sisters who are suffering a profound sense of betrayal and a widening sense of fear. We pray for the families and friends and neighbors of George, Ahmaud and Breonna. We pray for comfort. We pray for justice.
May we remember and never forget that you came as a lamb to the slaughter that we might never have to kill again. May we remember and never forget that you gave us the blessing of peace. May we remember and never forget that the proof of following you was love.
With a renewed sense of resolve, we pledge to continue our work to develop in students a heart for reconciliation and hands that act for justice in the name of Christ.
Robin Baker, President
Rebecca Hernandez, Associate Provost of Local & Global Engagement, Chief Diversity Officer