We are church, and we are essential.
As we have been hearing questions over this last week, about when the church might “reopen,” we want to be clear.
Our church has never been closed.
In this time of limited physical gathering, we have continued to be church. We have been worshipping, praying, caring for one another and ministering to the world throughout this pandemic time. We know we are not in our building right now, but we will not mistake our building for church.
And yet, while closed for congregational gathering, our building, as a resource of our church, has also remained open for direct services programming to the most vulnerable in our community. We have been doing essential work providing space for non-profits to support homeless at-risk teens and essential workers needing childcare. We are grateful to those on our staff, most especially our custodians, who are helping us continue to be church in this way too.
So, we are grateful for all the ways we are continuing to live out that essential nature of what it means to be church. We also know that there are questions about when we might gather in our building again. For an answer to that question, we look to both our basic understanding of what it means to be church, and to the scientifically informed guidelines being offered by those who are developing protocols to minimize risk. Our values tell us we will gather in our building when we know we are not asking the most vulnerable in our communities to take their lives in their hands or be left behind in isolation. We will gather when we know our custodians and others who care for our building are as safe as we can possibly make them. We will gather when a rapid and reliable test is readily available. We will gather, in-person, when it is a true reflection of God’s love and compassion and not before.
We are the church and we are essential.
This week, the news reverberates with the phrase “I can’t breathe.”
It is hard to hold all the grief: over one hundred thousand dead from Covid-19, with its impact being felt the hardest in communities of color. The heart-rending death of George Floyd at the hands of white police officers in Minneapolis, his last words echoing those of Eric Garner six years ago. Racism is a deadly virus, too.
Last summer we passed a resolution to become a Racial Justice Congregation. We acknowledged our participation in systemic racism. We affirmed a call to improve our understanding of systemic racism, and to work to change those systems in our communities, our church, and ourselves. We made a commitment to each other to make strides in self-awareness and community learning, and to lift our voices in witness as followers of Jesus, who himself was an innocent brown-skinned man killed at the hands of the state.
When we feel helpless, overwhelmed, or grief-stricken, we are companioned by the Christ who understands our pain. Like the early Disciples, we follow the way of Jesus because Christ can make a Way out of no way. Christ calls us to a way of justice and radical inclusion, a way that seeks to make the kin-dom of heaven here on earth. Let us search our hearts and renew our personal commitment to this work.
We are the church, and we are essential.
Yours in Covenant,
Special Congregational Meeting, August 4, 2019
BE IT RESOLVED THAT UNIVERSITY CONGREGATIONAL UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST IS CALLED TO BE A RACIAL JUSTICE CHURCH
We acknowledge that there are many ways in which we, as a congregation, take part in the systemic racism that exists in our society.
We affirm that as people of faith and followers of Jesus, we are called to work in our understanding of systemic racism, and to work in ways both in and outside the church to change those systems and ourselves.
We acknowledge that while our journey in this work has begun, many steps are still to be taken. We are called to take strides in self-awareness, in community learning, and to be a voice with others in witness to our faith.
We affirm that these steps will include but are not limited to:
- Hanging a Black Lives Matter banner in public display on the exterior of our church building, in recognition that Black lives have been systemically devalued by our society and that we live out the love of God justly by publicly saying #BlackLivesMatter.
- Developing benchmarks within our church programs, worship services, employment practices and physical structure to eradicate racism and promote more inclusive practices.
- Continuing our sacred conversations about race through peace circles, trainings, book groups, lectures, etc.
- Continuing our involvement with outside groups, congregations and policies that promote justice for people of color.
- Developing a process of accountability when inevitable racist comments and practices are brought to light.
- Wherever possible coordinating with the other social justice activities in the Church including Sacred Earth, Housing and Homelessness, and Immigrant Rights teams.
We make this commitment and continue on this journey knowing that our work will be imperfect and incomplete, yet also knowing that it is crucial that we make bold and courageous steps, call on God’s love and grace for ourselves and each other when we fall short, and move forward secure in the knowledge that God is calling us to be on this sacred journey of honesty, commitment, passion and hope.