Rev. Alex, Kelly, Christopher, and Evan
SSUMC is supporting all ministry areas in revitalizing and recommitting to our work of anti-racism. We are a congregation of people in different places on our anti-racism walks. We embrace our multi-racial community with awareness of the complexity it brings to doing this work well. We honor the suffering and stories and need to rest of the people of color in our community. We call white folks to grow and take risks for the work of racial justice. We name that the liberation of all of God’s beloved is wrapped up together. We confess and repent in worship. We receive prophetic preaching that seeks to both comfort and afflict. And we begin again.
Our racial justice group continues to meet regularly to discuss and support education, advocacy, and action work surrounding racial justice in our local community, state, and nation. Small groups and all-church study opportunities are encouraged to center anti-racism conversations and voices and theologians of color in their studies. Family ministry work continues to resource parents in supporting conversations about race with their children. Our youth are reading Stamped: Racism, Anti-Racism, and You (Reynolds and Kendi) in a summer book group.
We protest. We lament. We listen. We follow black leaders. We make mistakes. We learn.
Two study groups with nearly 20 families participating are underway reading, wrestling with, and discussing how parents raising white kids can support their children in developing a healthy relationship to whiteness. We are seeking and sharing wisdom, continuing to confront the racism in ourselves, and committing to model the agency and power white people have to interrupt racism.
We’ll host August book club groups to discuss Ta-nehisi Coats’ memoir Between the World and Me as a way to invite even more people into these conversations. This work is more than reading and talking, but it surely requires reading and talking. And so this is part of where we start.
As with so many things, we pray that the Spirit does not leave us there.
Mr. Rogers rarely steers us wrong.
During times when pandemics rage and tragedy strikes, he reminds us to “look for the helpers.” While SSUMC food ministries look very different now than they did back in February, we are so proud of the partnerships we have cultivated with community leaders who have organized volunteers to grocery shop, make and deliver casseroles, and donate food to organizations that can get it to families with empty pantries. These partnerships are ever-evolving and we are so grateful to be in ministry and be helpers during this time.
The short story below (2.5 min) highlights one of the local food ministry partnerships SSUMC participated in at the start of the pandemic.
This a recording from a service on July 1, 2020. It’s a powerful service, and we encourage you to revisit it, to sit with the stories shared by our siblings in Christ, and to recommit to participating in the work of building God’s Kin-dom.
Several parents have asked how to talk to children about the protests and the death of George Floyd. Below is a blog post by Wendy Claire Barrie and resources that might be a starting place. Conversations about race are often difficult and never perfect. However, informed by our faith, we must commit to educating ourselves, listening to people of color, and taking action everyday to resist racism not only for the children entrusted to us as parents but for all God’s children.
Talking With our Children About Race
by: Wendy Claire Barrie
This post originally appeared in August, 2017 after the racial violence in Charlottesville. It has been substantially rewritten as of June 1, 2020. Visit her blog (Faith at home) here.
What do we tell our children about race and racism? We begin by reminding them that we are made in the image of God who loves us—all of us; that we promise in our baptismal covenant “to seek and serve Christ in all persons,” to love our neighbors as ourselves, and “to strive for justice and peace among all people and respect the dignity of every human being.” There is no room for misunderstanding in these words. Love and peace are words our children hear us use often, but what about justice? “Justice is what love looks like in public,” says Cornel West. It is the work of the church, and of families, too.
How do we start? Jareesa Tucker McClure has great advice and several excellent resources to share from the days following the march in Charlottesville in this blog post . She doesn’t sugarcoat the challenge: “We owe it to our children to tell them the truth, no matter how uncomfortable it makes us feel. There are people in the world who hate others because of their skin color, religion or nation of origin. It’s our duty as parents to prepare our children for the real world. Sharing the truth helps build trust with your child, as they’ll know they can come to you to answer the hard questions with honesty.”
This is long, deep work, and for white parents especially, it is likely to push us out of our comfort zones. Parent Toolkit has some excellent advice on having conversations about race and racism. For white parents who want some training or conversation, take a look at the options offered at Raising Race Conscious Children. Older children, youth and adults will benefit from the “Talking About Race” resources offered through the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Books can give us a window into history and experiences vastly different from our own. Here’s a newly updated book list from Embrace Race and an older but still strong list from Parents Choice Foundation which includes books for middle and high school students with brief descriptions and age guidelines.
If in 2017 it seemed to be enough for white parents to talk with our children about racism, it’s now imperative that we also talk about the violent legacy of white supremacy and the endemic nature of racism, both structural and personal, that has brought us to this moment in the United States. This article from USA Today specifically addresses how to approach the topics of police brutality and the riots of the past week with both white children and children of color.
White friends, eradicating racism and white supremacy is our work to do. Centering Black experience is an essential part of understanding what is happening now, how the past has shaped our attitudes and our institutions, and what needs to change. This reading list is a great place to start. Don’t have time for a book right now?Try NPR’s Code Switch podcast or the Race/Related weekly newsletter from the New York Times. Seek out the good work already being done locally in organizations led by people of color. Support businesses owned and run by people of color. Read, or better yet, subscribe to The Root.
Minister, activist and Christian ethics professor Jennifer Harvey’s work focuses on white anti-racism in her newest book, published in January 2018, is Raising White Kids: Bringing Up Children in a Racially Unjust America. It’s full of examples and practical advice for parents and educators, and is a significant and much-needed addition to the conversation . Here’s an interview with her on NPR about how to talk about racially charged events with white kids.
As Christians, we must talk with our children about race and racial justice in the context of our faith. Pastor and parent Erin Wathen, in her book More Than Words: 10 Values for Modern Families, writes about environmental racism evidenced in the lead-poisoned tap water of Flint, Michigan. Yes, there is the immediate need to provide the community with safe water, but Wathen reminds us that the “transformative work of relationship takes place in community.” Speaking as a white woman and a member of a predominantly white denomination, it’s clear to me that in our families and in our churches we have the opportunity and the imperative to reach out to those whose experiences are different from our own, to really listen to and know one another and to strengthen existing relationships in ways that deepen our understanding, compassion and respect. “The act of service does not transform the deeper reality; the work of justice does.” When the deeper reality is transformed, the kingdom of God is revealed.
Let us keep this conversation going. Additional resources and reading lists are below:
Kindergarten teacher Vivian Zhang made this short video for her students explaining why people are protesting.
Parents of white children, watch the recording of Jennifer Harvey’s webinar with EmbraceRace, titled How not to raise white kids who are quick to call the police on people of color.
Raising Luminaries and the Student Ignition Society have put together an excellent family toolkit on ending police brutality. I especially like the kid-friendly collaborative action bingo.
Children’s book authors including Kwame Alexander and Jacqueline Woodson held a virtual Rally for Black Lives on Facebook. The portion for school age kids is from 7 – 7:45 pm eastern, followed by a portion for parents and educators. (PLEASE watch this video replay on Facebook. It is POWERFUL)
May we all work together to make our church, our community, and our world a better place for ALL people of color.
Enjoy this beautiful video featuring 60 of your SSUMC family as we retell and celebrate the story of Pentecost. May the stirring of the spirit move you closer to God, to God’s community, and to God’s justice, this and every day.
Thanks to Prerna and Wyatt!
Do you knit, crochet, or think this is the time to learn via YouTube? In the recent Messenger, on page 19, we shared information about this new ministry and invited you to an info session on May 3. With all that is going on now, we have decided to invite you all to be a part of this now!
The idea is that you could make prayer shawls now, based on patterns we can send you, hold on to them, and when we are able to again worship in person together, we would designate a Sunday to bless the shawls to have them ready to share with folks who can use a physical reminder of God’s love and the love of SSUMC.
Prayer shawls symbolize peace, healing, and spiritual sustenance, and offer comfort and hope. They can be given to someone who is ill, someone who has experienced a loss, or someone who has experienced a joy, such as the birth/baptism of a new baby, or a marriage.
Knitters and crocheters offer a blessing or prayer as they begin their work, even though they don’t know who will receive their shawls. If you are comfortable doing so, you can add a note to the unknown recipient, telling that person you are offering this as a blessing to them, or enclose a favorite Bible passage, or add words of comfort or joy.
For now you are invited to knit or crochet at home. If there is interest, we could set up a Zoom group for folks to gather together via technology.
This year for Lent we will be journeying through Holy Week in Slow-Mo. We will spend the entirety of Lent walking through the many deep and rich stories of Holy Week. This means that March 1 will be Palm Sunday. And April 5 we will mark the Crucifixion. We will still have regular Holy Week services, but journeying slow-motion will allow the whole congregation to experience these crucial stories of our faith in a new way.
Jesus shared with us that the greatest commandment is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind…And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:36-39). As we face an unprecedented situation as a community, country, and world, we are all faithfully discerning what that love looks like.
At this point in time, in order to protect the most vulnerable among our congregation and community, we have made the difficult decision to close the SSUMC campuses for all official church activities. This closure will be in effect starting Friday March 13th, and will last for at least until April 30. We will continue to be in touch with you as we have more information. The closure includes all SSUMC activities—including but not limited to: worship, bible study, food pantries, committee meetings, special events.
Worship, beginning this Sunday, will be online at 10am and information about how to participate can be found here. Likewise small groups are encouraged to use other means of connection—zoom, conference call, email, group text—we are so grateful that there are many means through which we can connect and support one another. If you are struggling—whether with the anxiety of this situation or with any other challenge—we as your pastors and staff remain available to you. Please call or email. And the pastoral emergency line remains the best way to reach us in case of a pastoral care emergency: 301-458-0768.
This is a time to support one another. Check in with one another. If you know of someone who does not regularly use email, call them and share this information with them. Let them know that worship information will be listed on the church voicemail when available. If you know someone who is particularly affected by this crisis, offer signs of love and support.
Even in a season when fear and anxiety are rampant, we maintain our identity as a people of hope. Even as we take the necessary precautions to do no harm, protect the vulnerable and seek to minimize the spread of the virus, we will continue to be the church. In online worship on Sunday, we will welcome two new members to SSUMC. As we welcome them through this online worship experience, we are embodying the truth of the children’s rhyme—the church is not a building, the church is not a steeple, the church is not a resting place, the church is the people. Even separated geographically, we remain connected. Connected through technology, yes, but even more profoundly connected by prayer and the love that we share as family in Christ.
We continue deeply in prayer for all of those who are affected most deeply—the sick, the grieving, the physically vulnerable, the economically vulnerable, health care professionals, emergency responders, community leaders, etc. We serve a God who chose not to remain removed and safe from the challenges, pain, and messiness of human life, but who came and lived among us as one of us. That same God continues with us in the challenges of this moment.
Peace of Christ+
SSUMC Clergy and Staff