Friday, July 19, 2013

A Letter to African American Churches

The following was written for the weekly newsletter of the church where I serve, Country Club Congregational United Church of Christ.

 A Letter to African American Churches

This week my heart has been quite heavy as I have reflected on the death of Trayvon Martin and the results of the George Zimmerman trial.  As the father of two brown-skinned sons not yet in their teens, I can't stop thinking about what if it were my son?  I have been saddened by the many white-skinned people who fail to see the dynamics of race in these circumstances.  I have hurt for African-Americans who's anger and fear is compounded by their experience of not being heard.  I am frustrated by laws that justify the use of deadly force in a cavalier manner and handicap law enforcement from keeping guns out of the hands of criminals.  As a minister, I have felt the need to do something proactive to build bridges of communication in the midst of all this mess.

So, I decided to write a letter.  One of the joys of being here at CCCUCC is being a part of MORE2, an organization where White and African-American ministers strive to build relationships with one another as we together work for justice in Kansas City.  I felt my letter should come from our church to the African-American churches we are related to through MORE2.

The letter I wrote is below.  I shared it with members of General Council who supported it and offered some really helpful feedback.  One of their suggestions was for us to print it in Sunday's bulletin and to invite church members to sign on to it if they are comfortable doing so.  Sunday this letter will be in the bulletin and then during coffee time following worship you can sign on to the letter.

Writing this letter for more than myself was a difficult task.  I struggled to fairly represent our congregation.  In a case like the death of Trayvon Martin, there are many different issues that come to mind.  Also, in a church like ours where we prize diversity of belief and freedom of opinion, there is no way I could really frame this letter the way each church member would prefer to do if she or he were writing it.  If some of the language is not exactly how you feel or what you would like to communicate, then I want you to know that I respect and value your perspective.  However, my intention with this letter was to express concern for and solidarity with the African-American community and most of all to express our desire to listen to their experience.  IF that basic sentiment aligns with the flow of the Spirit inside of you, then I hope you will sign the letter on Sunday.

Grace and Peace,

You can read more thoughts from Chase on his blog:
and follow him on Twitter @ChasePeeples1.     

Dear Pastor,

We, the undersigned members of Country Club Congregational United Church of Christ, write to you in order to express our pain and sadness over the death of Trayvon Martin and the outcome of the trial of George Zimmerman.  We felt it was important at this difficult time to express our solidarity with your congregation and other African-American congregations with whom we are connected through MORE2.  Although our culture may generally be divided along racial lines in its response to these incidents, we want you to know that we stand with you in denouncing efforts to minimize the tragedy of the shooting death of an unarmed African-American teenager.

Our church is a largely Caucasian congregation, so we want you to know that the white members of our congregation do not make any claim to know what it is like to be on the receiving end of our nation’s long and sorrowful history of racism, but as your sisters and brothers in Christ, we can declare our opposition to racism in all its forms.  We also recognize our participation in the systemic racism of our society and offer our repentance.  Our  white members, along with our black and brown ones, join together in reaching out to you. 

We do not intend to offer empty words, but rather we offer our ears to listen to the African-American experience at this time in history.  We extend our hearts as we learn from you and change.  We extend our arms to embrace one another.  We contribute our voices to speak out on behalf of those who do not have a voice in our society.  We make these offers of ourselves with humility knowing that we have much to learn from you.

We pledge to stand with you and your congregation as we work alongside you to overcome obstacles to achieve God’s justice for all people.  Our churches may be on different sides of Troost Avenue, but we share the same city.  We may have different experiences of racism, but we follow the same Jesus Christ who experienced an unjust legal system, beatings and execution.  We may have many differences, but we worship the same God who longs for people of faith to join together to create a society—as Martin Luther King, Jr. said-- in which all our children “will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

We stand with you in the love of God and wish to support you any way we can.

Grace and Peace,

Rev. Chase Peeples and the members of Country Club Congregational United Church of Christ


Kelly Blincoe said...

Beautifully expressed, and I appreciate the struggle you had to try and make it a letter from the congregate and not just from you. Were I only in Kansas City, I would sign in support.

Tiara said...