Pastor Jess Scholten
Pastor's Pondering - June 14th, 2020
Updated: Jul 3, 2020
Dear friends –
In the midst of a pandemic, we are reminded more pointedly by recent events and current protests of the suffering of our siblings of color. Perhaps it is even because of a pandemic, when the divide is so clear in how people of color are suffering more because of higher rates of illness and death, due to economic and health care disparities, that people are willing to risk a serious virus to protest.
We moved from a place where the faith community realized that even in a welcoming, justice-seeking capital city (Madison, WI), there were significant disparities and continued segregation. The wider Christian community I was part of for ten years dedicated a lot of time in training, discerning, and seeking through action to dismantle white supremacy, working hard to face the truths of what it meant to live in a state with one of the highest white-black segregation cities in the country (Milwaukee). It felt unusual to me after moving to live in a place there was a lack of conversation about race and issues of justice, but I was a new pastor here, had plenty else to think about, donned clergy collar for some immigration rallies in the city (Chicago) to scratch the itch of advocacy, and went on my merry way.
The same habits of which many of us have taken on – pay attention briefly, read a book here and there, and get on with our merry lives – is no longer acceptable. Our siblings of color have been saying this for so long. Allies have been trying to remind us. The Presbytery has been advocating strongly for people to be part of the CARE Team (Commission on Anti-Racism and Equity) and attend generously-funded 3-day anti-racism training through Chicago ROAR, which Tom Ekin and I attended in October.
The staff and church leadership are currently trying to discern next steps forward – a church-wide read, continued prayer services for justice, and ways to keep connected to the conversation. The Presbytery of Chicago issued a statement on the death of George Floyd which includes a call to “the churches and people of the Presbytery of Chicago to take action that helps to interrupt and dismantle white supremacy. We charge Sessions and congregations to commit to tangible effort that pushes against racism in all its forms and locations.” You can read the full statement by clicking here.
I am sure you have plenty of lists of books and resources, but a great first step if this is article, "For Our White Friends Desiring to Be Allies," by Courtney Ariel. I’ve also put together a one page bibliography of resources I have personally found helpful or have specifically been suggested by other friends, mentors, and clergy. And Just Mercy is free this month on Amazon and Youtube. I have not finished the book, but I’m going to watch the movie – maybe we can have a discussion group for others who might want to join in.
What are you reading that’s helping you learn? How would you want the church to be engaging in the discussion and work of dismantling white supremacy? I’d love to hear from you – drop me an email or a text.
Grace and peace,