We are all still in shock and pain. Yesterday, I wrote these brief words on social media about the tragic events at Emanuel AME Church in South Carolina.
There’s a time to argue issues and there’s a time to just grieve, mourn, weep. Now is that time to grieve, mourn, weep.
Tomorrow will come and may God give us wisdom and courage to be both fierce and gentle, prophetic and pastoral…in pursuit of God’s Kingdom here on this earth.
But today…we lament. We lament. We lament.
Well, we continue to lament, and grieve, and weep. And as we do so, we must have the courage indeed to be both fierce and gentle, prophetic and pastoral. We must have the courage to speak up. Today, I asked Rev. Liz Mosbo Verhage, one of our pastors at Quest Church and also an adjunct professor at North Park Theological Seminary, for permission to share her courageous post entitled, “An Open Letter to White Christians From a White Female Pastor.”
Please take a read. Please take this heart.
An Open Letter to White Christians from a White Female Pastor
I am grieving and lamenting and beyond angry over what feels like open season on the Black Community/Church right now in the United States.
White Christians, this is the time to pay attention and be part of our nation’s struggle to understand and address the continual violence happening against our black sisters and brothers. When one part of the Body hurts we all hurt – when one part of the Body is repeatedly targeted, killed, not protected, pulled out of swimming pools, seen as threats when unarmed – and then misrepresented, silenced, or made small through ahistoric excuses, side-stepping through political mess, or any other form of evil – we need to stand up. We need to show up – loudly. We need to demand a different response – and start with our people in the church.
White church – and the wider church in general – this is the time for all of us to engage. Help present the truth wherever you can, whether it’s on facebook or over lunch at work. Fight for life, by holding up friends right now and grieving with those too tired to carry on, and preparing for advocacy and work that is necessary and is always before us in the future. Seek to understand, lament, and see the systems and principalities at work in our world, in our churches, maybe in our minds – ask Christ for the eyes to see. Thank you to all those already in the game – advocating, grieving, listening, standing with, and paying attention.
If you’re not sure what to do – start paying attention, right now. Read articles from the Black Community, notice the particular beauty and pain within the Black Church, start to feel this pain and shock and repeated abuse as if it were in your own family, because, well, it is. Pray, pray more, confess, lament, and learn more, and pray some more. Bring this up with your people. Ask about this reality of race and death at your church – where will it be addressed within worship this Sunday? Where will we take our part of the responsibility of educating, advocating, understanding, speaking out, and helping change how race and faith and life and death are seen in the US? Publicly share information and lament and hope with others. Publicly stand for and with and fight this sense of black life not being as valuable, as noticed, as mourned. The more we join the outrage and point to the truth that #faithandracealwaysmatter and #BlackLivesMatter, the more we help open up spaces of lament, healing, Good News, justice, reconciliation, hope and the potential for life to flourish.
This is not a time to leave the black community alone, to let them mourn or be angry or fix it alone.
White Christians, we inherited this mess and this story of power and privilege and racism that shapes our individual lives, our corporate realities, and even our congregations. The wider church and the world will be shaped by how we choose to engage or turn away from this kind of death. Particularly those of us with any voice, leadership, influence, and the privilege to choose whether or not to engage issues of death and race – it is time to get in the game. Because of course, this is no game – these issues of racism and how we choose to see truthfully or speak up – these are literally matters of life and death for the Black Community. So it is past time to choose life, to advocate for our people – all people – in the Body of Christ. It is on our shoulders to be part of fighting the evil we are witnessing over and over in our nation that is taking and diminishing Black life – actively, with faith and hope and love, and with each other.
Rev. Liz Mosbo VerHage , Ph.D., is an ordained pastor, professor, preacher, teacher, author, practicing theologian, wife and mom. She is the Pastor of Global and Local Ministries at Quest Church in Seattle, equipping the church to engage in presence, justice, advocacy, and compassion, and is an adjunct teacher for the Urban Ministry M.Div. and D.Min. program at North Park Theological Seminary in Chicago.