"It's up to all of us — Black, white, everyone — no matter how well-meaning we think we might be, to do the honest, uncomfortable work of rooting it out. It starts with self-examination and listening to those whose lives are different from our own. It ends with justice, compassion, and empathy that manifests in our lives and on our streets. I pray we all have the strength for that journey, just as I pray for the souls and the families of those who were taken from us." – Michelle Obama
Dear Fellowship Friends,
Like many of you, I spent last weekend processing my own heartbreak and listening to the anguish of our African American siblings over the killing of George Floyd. Finally, Michelle Obama’s words (above) helped me formulate my response.
The thoughts I share below apply to my personal life, but I also know it’s my responsibility to help The Fellowship discern how these thoughts relate to our common worship ministries. How can we live out our motto, "Transforming the World Through Worship"?
Our national Board has been working to address our lack of relationships, both personal and corporate, with persons of color. We believe that strong relationships are one of the strongest components of The Fellowship, and that it is through relationships that transformation takes place.
While we have a Statement of Welcome that guides us, we cannot let that be our only response. Silence in this moment is complicity. A failure to practice self-examination and organizational examination perpetuates injustice and inequality.
On Monday morning I wrote:
The honest, uncomfortable work of rooting out racism:
Justice, Compassion, Empathy lived out
I have, as a middle class, heterosexual, educated, white, American woman benefitted from, participated in, and worked to perpetuate the systemic preference for and elevation of white people and the degradation of all others, specifically my African American siblings, my entire life.
I would add that admitting that is extremely painful and causes me much sorrow and shame. Some things have to die for something new to be born. Unless I am willing for my pride and place of privilege to die, I guarantee that nothing new will be born.
I wrote this series of questions for myself, but I want to challenge you to engage with these questions alongside me.
- How are we perpetuating racism in all the systems that support our personal and organizational life?
- How can we listen to the cry of our neighbors who bear the very image and likeness of God?
- What is the next right step for me, for us, in our circles of influence, to live out justice, compassion, and empathy?
- What are we afraid of?
- Who are we afraid of offending?
- What will we have to let go of?
- Whose life is at stake if we don't?
This Thursday morning (June 3), I'll be hosting my biweekly "'Round the Table" Coffee Chat on Zoom at 11 a.m. ET / 10 a.m. CT / 9 a.m. MT / 8 a.m. PT. I believe it's extremely important for us to talk together about these questions and our responses, both individual and corporate. Or if you simply need a friendly word of support, you are welcome to join in. I welcome you to email me for connection info ... or, if you can't join us, reach out and we can find a time to talk.
My beautiful Fellowship friends, let us live out these closing words from our Statement of Welcome: Christ made no mistake in opening the table of grace to everyone. Therefore, our membership and its leaders commit to embrace one another with boundless compassion and affirmation so that the reign of God might be made known "on earth as it is in heaven."
Dear God, help me change. Help us change.
Dear God, have mercy on us and help us.
Rev. Leigh Anne Taylor,
National Fellowship President