As I reflect on the events of the past couple of weeks, I don’t know how much more I can take. It has been a tough couple of weeks.
Over 200,000 people have died from coronavirus. The latest word from the CDC is, we could reach 300,000 or more deaths by the first of the year.
Lord have mercy.
The grand jury decision not to charge anyone for the death of Breonna Taylor. We are not only continuing to scoff at the worth of black lives but continue to maintain dysfunctional systems that stand in the way of dignity and healing.
Lord have mercy.
With the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, our country has lost another champion of human rights. Just as John Lewis helped us see that the discrimination on the basis of race was not an abstract ideal of equality, Justice Ginsburg helped us see that discrimination on the basis of gender was not about an abstract ideal of equality. Liberty and justice for all is a real consequence for all persons, regardless of race or gender.
Lord have mercy.
The inflammatory statements made by political leaders in a time when we need leaders to pull together to overcome the pandemics of racism and coronavirus is just beyond my imagination. How much more are we going to have to endure?
Lord have mercy.
My greatest relief over the past two weeks as been your steady and consistent leadership. I have seen how you have been navigating the converging and conflicting values of this time. I have experienced your stability as people have trusted you to lead them through these days of uncertainty and chaos. And even when there has been disagreement, I have heard of your compassion and care. I want you to know that you have been a source of hope for me.
As tough as the past couple of weeks have been, I am writing to encourage you to not give up. We are in the middle of a very crucial time in our history. Your leadership is needed more today than ever before. I know that sounds dramatic, but as I have reflected, this is what is needed:
1. Continue to encourage people to pay attention to the protocol of wearing masks and social distancing.
We have all grown weary of this pandemic, but now is not the time to let down. People want things to be “normal.” You already know, we are not going back to the way things were before the pandemic. Encourage people to keep going and to not give up. There will be an end.
We know that wearing masks in public, like church buildings, helps in slowing the spread of the virus. We know that keeping the number of people gathering in groups to a minimum helps to slow the spread of the virus. I miss the personal contact, the singing of hymns, and gathering together to pray and to share other signs of care, but now is not the time to let down. Continue assisting people to make the decisions they need to make to keep themselves and everyone around them safe and healthy.
2. Continue to learn about and to practice anti-racism.
The protests and demonstrations that are taking place across the country might be frightening and, frankly, unnecessary to some people. What is frightening to me is that almost 20% of practicing Christians say race is not a problem in the United States. According to Barna research, this is an 8% increase over 2019. Now is the time to learn more about and to practice anti-racism.
Let me try to put in perspective. This year, the killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor and the shooting of Jacob Blake have opened the door for conversations about racial justice. We have seen and experienced marches and demonstrations, a players’ strike in the NBA and WNBA, professional tennis players focusing upon justice, and new policies concerning issues related to Confederate symbols.
Books on anti-racism have risen to top of the best-seller lists, and leaders in government, business and religion have examined their actions and influence. With all these things and more, we might assume that the events of 2020 have increased our awareness of racial injustice and motivated us to do something about it.
But new Barna research suggests that the events over the past year have brought some clarity to how we think about racial injustice but has not necessarily helped us see the issue as important or to identify our role in it. In fact, according to Barna, within the Christian church, there is a sense that people are doubling down on their views of race.
Now, like never before, is the time to learn about, teach, and practice anti-racism. Let me put it another way. Now is the time to “love your neighbor.” Now is the time to “love as you have been loved.” Now is the time to “welcome one another as God in Christ has welcomed you.” So, don’t give up. Take advantage of this opportunity to help the people entrusted to your care to become the people God has created them to be.
3. Vote and get others to vote.
Help people in your community to register to vote if they are not registered. Organize a group of people in your congregation to provide transportation for persons to get to the polls on election day. Assist those who are afraid to be out in public to vote by using an absentee ballot. This might not seem like a spiritual exercise, but the dignity and worth of people who are affected by our votes are at the center of our spirituality.
I am sure you are already thinking of other ways to bring hope into the lives of the people entrusted to your care. Now is the time to step up and lead. It is in times like these that people need leaders they can trust, leaders of compassion and stability, and leaders that can offer hope of better and greater days ahead.
I am grateful for your leadership and for the ways you encourage me and offer me hope. May we, together, lead the people entrusted to us into God’s love in the days ahead. When Sara Thomas or I can be of encouragement or help to you, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Sara and I are ready to assist you in becoming the leader you are created to be. Don’t hesitate to call upon us as we seek to assist you in deepening your relationship with Christ, the church, and your community.