Faith Story for ELCA’s Commitment to End Racism Sunday

Reflection shared in worship by Bruce Purdy

Good morning,

Growing up in East Toledo, I lived in the working class part of town. Diversity was honored and celebrated at home and at school, or at least that is how it seemed in my world. I recall, the big issues that were on the news were Iran, the Soviet Union, and the Space Shuttle program. Racism existed, but it was always someplace else – just not in my small world, or so I thought.
As I grew older, my eyes were opened to see that racism was real, but again it seemed to always be in other places. I didn’t know anyone personally that was impacted by racism. In reality, everyone I knew was impacted in some way, no one wanted to talk about it. My rose-colored glasses were shattered when a friend confided in me that he had been beaten up once just because he was black. But still, what could I do?

Less than three months ago, a young white man walked into Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston an after sitting with them for Bible Study, he murdered 9 African Americans. At our Metro DC Synod Assembly that happened a few days after the shooting, the Synod Assembly adopted a resolution on Racism and the Events in Charleston and encouraged congregations of the Synod to do the same. Our council passed such a resolution in August and also set up a committee on racism that met for the first time last Thursday.
Some of us may be sitting here saying – why do we need to do this? Why do we need to get involve? Does this really affect us? My brothers and sisters the answer is yes we need to be engaged in this dialogue. When we sit silently by the sidelines we are complicit. I think our brother Wasihun said it best at our last Council meeting. To paraphrase, as Christians, whether here or in Charleston, we are all part of the Body of Christ. When one part of the body is hurting, we are all hurting together. When our brothers and sisters in Charleston are hurting, we hurt as well.
So what can we do? Why is this important for Good Shepherd?
I believe to live out our faith, we must do more than pass a resolution. We must engage in dialogue, create a safe space where we can be open to discuss questions and thoughts on race and racism. As followers of Jesus we are instructed to deny ourselves, take up our crosses, and follow him. We are to love our neighbors as ourselves. We are called to act with mercy and justice and to forgive. Opening a dialogue is just a first step. I ask that we each prayerfully consider how we individually and collectively can take steps to address racism in our community


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