Thursday, June 25, 2015

An Opportunity for Deepening Relationship

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,


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