Thursday, June 25, 2015
In the wake of the Charleston shootings, interfaith and interracial gatherings have been held all over the country. Here in the Chicago area, the Leader’s Network, a group of pastors from the westside of Chicago hosted a “Call to Unity.”
The “Call to Unity” was held at New Mount Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church in K-Town, near Washington and Kostner--part of the North Lawndale community on the west side of Chicago. As I parked five minutes before it was scheduled to begin, I was uncertain what to expect. I had invited my congregation, but because it was Father’s Day, I didn’t know if anyone would join me.
I discovered eight members of my congregation were there, including two board members. I also saw my friend Rabbi Max Weiss with members of his synagogue. And our colleague Rev. Sally Iberg as well as members of other Oak Park churches and I was immediately filled with gratitude that so many people from Oak Park showed up.
As I approached Dr. Marshall Hatch, the senior pastor of the host church, he warmly greeted me and thanked me for coming--and then he asked if I would speak. I accepted the invitation. It turned out that Rabbi Weiss and Rev. Iberg also were speaking.
After Dr. Hatch called us clergy up, Rev. Cy Fields of New Landmark Baptist Church offered an opening prayer. He said “You know it has to be something of great magnitude to bring us out here today, on a day that we celebrate fathers.”
He went on: “It is a time for people of faith to rise up and not allow hate to drown out the power of love. So we come together in unity. As much as we’re sad about what happened in Charleston, South Carolina, it is my prayer that out of it will come a resolve for all of us who worship God, to use this as an opportunity to spread love throughout the land, so that we can live as a community of brotherhood,”
Seven clergy then spoke, and every one of us shared powerfully, and when Rev. Iberg spoke, saying “We cannot have peace without justice” everyone roared, and as she named the reality that people of color face significantly different experience from others, the assembly jumped to their feet, as she shouted what needs to expressed to the wider public....
A group of Muslims showed up and their leader said, “We need to come together at times like this. Hatred and violence is what we need to collectively denounce and affirm our common humanity.”
And now, the question is: How shall we seize this opportunity? How shall we move forward and capitalize on the relationships we made on this day?
It begins with deepening these relationships by meeting one-to-one, learning what common commitments we share, discerning a meaningful objective that is realistic if we bring together people to persuade those in power to make the change we’re seeking.
Already the Confederate flag is coming down in South Carolina government property. But there is so much more we need to do to resist the racism that lurks in our midst. There is education, sharing of stories, and cultivating greater understanding.
This is a significant moment.
Black Lives Matter. How can the experience of so many people of color in this country be shared so that the wide majority who are people of compassion can ensure that we promote compassion, equity, and justice in our communities?
I’m grateful many people are talking about this. I look forward to living into these questions with many of you!
Love with Courage,
Saturday, June 20, 2015
The last two days I have struggled with the horrifying massacre at Emanuel American Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, SC. The more I learn about that historic church and the beautiful people who were killed, the deeper I grieve.
I am struck by how Rev. Clementa Pinckney described his public service, which began when he was 23 and elected to the South Carolina House of Representative and by 27 he was a state senator: “I see my public life as a extension of my ministry,” he told the Post and Courier. “I believe in a progressive, holistic ministry where you are mentally, politically and socio-economically involved. Faith is not just getting you to heaven.”
Rev. Depayne Middleton-Doctor, mother of 4 and frequent preacher at Emanuel, was 47 when she was among those shot and killed. I am especially taken by the letter the Middleton family put out acknowledging her death.
The very thing many of us fight against—a deeply masked and far reaching culture of violence in our society—has devastated our family. This past Wednesday night during bible study and prayer service, a gunman filled with a racist heart entered the historical Mother Emanuel AME Church of Charleston, South Carolina and opened fire on the 12 persons gathered there. Only three people survived the attack.
Our loved one, Rev. Depayne Middleton, was among those killed. Ever since her death was confirmed, our family has been met with unspeakable pain and grief. Our hearts are troubled, but our faith remains steadfast, trusting and believing in God’s power to mend our broken hearts.
At this time of grave personal loss, we ask you for two things. First, please keep our family and our church community at Mother Emanuel A.M.E. in your prayers. Next, please move away from the sidelines and unite together- regardless of your faith or religious practice- to seek an end to hatred and violence.
What happened to our family is part of a larger attack on Black and Brown bodies. To impact change, we must recognize the connection between racism, hate crimes and racialized policing. While the focus for this specific attack was on African Americans, we all have a responsibility to seek not only justice for the victims, but an end to racial injustice.
We should put our faith to action, making a conscious decision to be more than empty drums that have long lost their melodies. In South Carolina the Confederate flag – an unequivocal symbol of hate – remains on statehouse grounds. We must demand the flag be removed immediately – we cannot let icons of racism fly free within our society.
We call on all people, public officials, faith leaders and Americans from all walks of life to help address the festering sores of racism as it spurs an unforgiving culture of violence. This is a big task but may become more manageable if we work together and if all people see the attack in Charleston as an attack on their own families and loved ones.
If you are in the Chicago area, I invite you to join me this Sunday at 2pm for an interfaith call to unity to acknowledge our grief and shared resistance to hate.
At the New Mount Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church, 4301 West Washington Blvd.
Here's what has been shared about the gathering:
Interfaith and Interracial CALL TO UNITY In memory of the MARTYRS OF THE CHARLESTON CHURCH MASSACRE
When: SUNDAY, JUNE 21, 2015 AT 2pm
When: SUNDAY, JUNE 21, 2015 AT 2pm
Where: NEW MOUNT PILGRIM MISSIONARY BAPTIST CHURCH, 4301 WEST Washington Blvd, Chicago Blvd
What: "PEOPLE UNITED TO PRESERVE THE SACREDNESS OF HOUSES OF WORSHIP"
HOST: The Leaders Network, Chicago Council of Religious Leaders, American Baptist Churches of Metro Chicago
This is a good opportunity to come together with other people of compassion and people of faith.
Thursday, June 18, 2015
I’m not only thrilled, my hope is renewed. Today is a historic day.
Here is the appeal, followed by detailed challenges that we face. From today's Encyclical from Pope Francis:
The urgent challenge to protect our common home includes a concern to bring the whole human family together to seek a sustainable and integral development, for we know that things can change. The Creator does not abandon us; he never forsakes his loving plan or repents of having created us. Humanity still has the ability to work together in building our common home. Here I want to recognize, encourage and thank all those striving in countless ways to guarantee the protection of the home which we share. Particular appreciation is owed to those who tirelessly seek to resolve the tragic effects of environmental degradation on the lives of the world’s poorest. Young people demand change. They wonder how anyone can claim to be building a better future without thinking of the environmental crisis and the sufferings of the excluded.
I urgently appeal, then, for a new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet. We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all. The worldwide ecological movement has already made considerable progress and led to the establishment of numerous organizations committed to raising awareness of these challenges. Regrettably, many efforts to seek concrete solutions to the environmental crisis have proved ineffective, not only because of powerful opposition but also because of a more general lack of interest. Obstructionist attitudes, even on the part of believers, can range from denial of the problem to indifference, nonchalant resignation or blind confidence in technical solutions. We require a new and universal solidarity. As the bishops of Southern Africa have stated: “Everyone’s talents and involvement are needed to redress the damage caused by human abuse of God’s creation”. All of us can cooperate as instruments of God for the care of creation, each according to his or her own culture, experience, involvements and talents.
- In the 20th century and early 21st century, the glory of the human is becoming the desolation of the earth.
- The desolation of the earth is becoming the great shame of the human.
- Therefore all programs, policies, activities, institutions must henceforth be judged primarily by the extent to which they inhibit, ignore, or foster a mutually enhancing human-earth relationship.
Thursday, June 11, 2015
Early summer is a great time to adjust our routines so that we make space to discern what is really going on--in us and in our community. This morning I got on my bicycle for a pre-breakfast ride. It was the first non-commute ride this year. As I rode, the phrase emerged: so much is locked up inside. Inside me. Inside others.
I’m sitting with this metaphor of unwittingly becoming locked down. It is so easy to go through our days and suppress pain and push away anger. Stuffing our negative feelings is most natural, but doing so can lead us to hide away a lot of what is genuine within that we lock down what’s inside.
There is so much within us that is often hidden away: wisdom, love and longing, hopes and dreams. I know what it’s like to feel estranged from these, and I often hear others lament a lack of purpose, but it doesn’t have to be this way. The question is whether we shall make the small changes required to have more access to what is going on in us--and then can attend to what is going on in the world.
As I rode, tears welled up because recent stress has me locked down, and getting some exercise opened me up. I woke up to the reality there are a lot of people I’m connected to, there’s plenty of wisdom to access within, and all I need to do is show up honestly to both myself and others.
Funny how we can feel so estranged from ourselves and then tweak our routine and we suddenly have access to what we really value. One routine we can adjust is having honest conversations with others. And another is reflecting on where our food comes from.
I recently talked with Jose Oliva, the co-chair for the Food Chain Workers Alliance campaign that has had great success in the Los Angeles area in raising standards for the food sold in public schools. Now they are organizing here in the Chicago area to get an ordinance passed that raises the quality of food sold and distributed to public schools and other institutions.
Over the last few decades a lot of thoughtful people have brought our attention to where food comes from, how it is produced, the benefits of organic, the economic costs to mass production, the need for more local farming and urban gardening. But one thing that has long been overlooked has been the needs of the hands that feed us.
There are 20 million people in the food industry in this country, many of whom are not making enough to feed their own families. It is so ironic that this country exploits food workers such they cannot make it without food stamps. A third of all food workers currently face wage theft, but many don’t protest for fear of losing their job--or being deported if they are undocumented.
The campaign here in Chicago is to get an ordinance to oblige companies who sell, distribute, and serve food to children in the public schools must meet certain standards for the food and the treatment and compensation of their workers. The Unitarian Universalist Service Committee has contributed to the printing of a comic book that conveys the challenges and the opportunities for today. Take a look here!
The next time you sit down to a nice meal, consider who has made it possible for you to enjoy it. If enough of us organize to call for higher ethical standards in the food industry, our buying power and our political power will call food corporations to do the right thing.
Four and a half years ago, the Immokalee workers organized a campaign to increase wages for tomato pickers. The focus wasn’t on the growers but the corporations that bought the tomatoes. “A Penny More a Pound” was the rallying cry. Not very much, but it makes it possible for the workers to have livable wages rather than poverty wages. First Taco Bell, then McDonalds and many large corporations have complied. Except for Wendy’s.
What will be the campaign that brings food harvesters, preparers, and servers the wages they need to raise their families without being in dire poverty?
Just as we as individuals get locked down, estranged from ourselves, so our society fails to recognize what is going on. For too long the needs of workers have shoved out of public awareness. This will change as good share together.
We often talk about changing our habits or routines when January 1st rolls around. But sometimes the winter is when we are most isolated. The summer offers an ideal time to add some exercise or get together with someone we value but haven’t seen for awhile. To sit down to meals and commit to the ethical development of our food.
Thursday, June 4, 2015
Wherever you live, may you connect with others to help cultivate the beloved community. This is the essence of learning how to love with courage.