Last week, we hung a banner on the Family Life Center that reads, “Black Lives Matter to God and to us.”
The banner hangs at a time when fewer people are driving by our building than ever before, thanks to the Coronavirus. So why hang it?
FUMC has been on a journey for years, growing our commitment to the work of racial justice. We have begun to acknowledge and repent our participation and perpetuation of racism and racist systems. We are still reckoning with the deliberate, horrifying acts of racism that have been committed in our church over the years, even by our congregation’s leaders and Pastors. We have learned more about our individual roles and our role as an institution in the many sins of racism. We are listening our way into change, seeking opportunities to learn from and follow people of color in the work of justice. We still have so much more to do.
With each new opportunity, each step, we are called to learn what we can and do what we can, and then ask, “What is the next step?” Hanging this banner on our FLC building is the next step for FUMC right now. This act of outward, public support is an effort toward solidarity with those whose lives have been devalued since the founding of this country. As a predominantly white institution, we recognize that being silent about racism only supports racism and secures its place in our society; this banner is an effort to declare, loud and clear, what we believe to be true: Black lives have always been valued by God—it’s about time the rest of us caught on.
Yes, fewer cars than usual will drive by and see this banner these days. However, the point is not just the number of people that view the banner. It’s the power of “clothing” our building with this message, the power of posting this proclamation right alongside the name “First United Methodist Church,” that counts, just as we did when we wrapped our columns in the rainbow of Pride. This statement is not just a show for others, but rather a reminder and call for us all to take another step toward faithfully imitating the God who calls us all beloved.
Of course, a banner is not the consummate act of solidarity. There is still work to be done, so we continue asking, “What is the next step?” I invite you to ask this question in your own prayers, and find your place in God’s work of undoing racism; I also invite you to pray for our leaders as we ask this question on behalf of the whole church. Opportunities for learning, partnership, and support all lay before us as we continue to join God in unraveling the forces of evil and embodying grace that brings new life and flourishing for all of God’s creation.
With tenacious hope,