29 May 2020 | 12:00 am - 12:00 am

A PDF of this letter may be found here.

May 29, 2020 

Dear Members and Friends of Providence, 

More shootings, more marches, more violence; and though the violence solves nothing, it does get our attention, sometimes. Sadly, it didn’t get much attention when Breanna Taylor was shot and killed in Louisville, KY two and a half months ago. Nor did it get much attention when Ahmaud Arbery was shot and killed. Those violent deaths would not have been fully investigated had not other events brought them to the public’s eye. But George Floyd’s violent death is getting attention. Marches, anger, more violence. How will the cycle be broken? If violence is not the way and our system of justice seems incapable of rendering justice for all, then what? Are we back to thoughts and prayers? Yes, but……. 

Thoughts not only for the grieving families and friends, but also thoughts about the deeper problems and divisions in our society. The history of our nation is one of racial segregation and disparity. And we are called to think about what this is like for the folks who suffer continued discrimination because of the color of their skin. We must think and act on ways we can bridge the gaps between races, between haves and have nots, between those with many choices and those with few. And we must think, must envision, how society would be under the kingdom of God’s rule. This is what can give us all hope. And we pray. Pray for victims, their families, for justice and truth, for the alleged perpetrators, for less violence and more actual change. Deep change. 

The following is an adapted letter written a week or so ago for the Faith and Justice Committee and sent with our Prayer List to those who pray and care for our congregation and community. After recent events we enlist the thoughts, prayers, hope, and actions of all our congregation. 

A few weeks ago I was doing some reading and research on the text for Sunday, Acts 17 where Paul is in Athens before the Areopagus giving his speech about the revelations of God to all, but Who was especially self-revealing in the resurrection of Jesus. 

Part of that speech, v. 26-27, goes: “From one ancestor (Adam) God made all nations (races) to inhabit the whole earth, and God allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him – though indeed he is not far from each one of us.”

T. Wright comments on these verses: “Nor – despite what not only traditional Athenians but also the pre-Christian Paul would have said – does God make any ultimate distinctions between one race of humans and another.” Another commentator F. F. Bruce, said much the same thing about these verses: “All humankind was one in origin – all created by God and all descended from one common ancestor. This removed all imagined justification for the belief that Greeks (especially the Athenians of Paul’s day) were innately superior to barbarians, as it removes all imagined justification for parallel beliefs today. Neither in nature nor in grace – neither in the old creation nor in the new – is there any room for ideas of racial superiority” (italics mine). 

I mention this as a prelude to asking that we, the church of Jesus Christ, pray for an end to this hateful, violent, un-Godly racism that is wreaking such havoc in our land. Let us pray for the victims of racism and racial bias – and there are many – George Floyd, Breanna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery the latest victims in too long a list. Let us pray for his family and friends that in their grief and anger they will find some comfort and hope. Let us pray that the lives and deaths of these and others will open the eyes of those blind to justice, and open the ears of those deaf to the cries of the oppressed. Let us pray for eyes to see the other, not through spectacles of fear, but wide open to the beauty of our distinctiveness. Let us pray for ways we can help tear down the dam that has held back the rivers of justice and streams of righteousness from brothers and sisters whose skin is a different color. The Lord looks not upon the color of someone’s skin, but at what is in his or her heart. We can start by examining what is in our own hearts. 

May our hearts be stirred to prayer and compassion. May our minds be searching for ways to take action. May our hope in the saving justice of God’s kingdom be ever forefront in our vision. May we love one another as Christ has loved us; loved and loves all of us, each of us, with “no distinctions between one race of humans and another” (N. T. Wright). 

God’s grace, Christ’s peace, the Spirit’s passion to you and all God’s children.
Walt and the Faith and Justice Committee