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Let justice roll down like a river and righteousness like a mighty stream.
~ Amos 5:24
Few people know that a very public lynching took place within the boundaries of the Pennsylvania Southeast Conference (PSEC) of the United Church of Christ in the early 20th century. Zachariah Walker, an iron worker who left Virginia in search of work and landed a position at the Worth Brothers Steel Company in Chester County was lynched on August 13th, 1911 in Coatesville, Pennsylvania. The Zachariah Walker Racial Justice
Initiative was born out of a desire to remember this atrocity and raise awareness about the ways people of faith can follow the prophetic call to stand up for racial justice.
In this time of challenge and reckoning, the light of Christ is shining through the sins of the generations, revealing how white privilege has colluded with, chosen to ignore, or refused to
see the sin of systemic racism in our midst. As Christians, we are called to open our eyes, and open wide our hearts to Black communities and all people of color who continue to be oppressed by our nation’s original sin – racism.
The veneration and idolatry of whiteness and white power creates degradation, enslavement, oppression, and racial violence that grievously injures Black and Brown people and
diminishes the humanity of white people who commit both the interpersonal and structural violence that sustain racism.
The Holy Spirit is moving through this land in the voices and hearts of those challenging the status quo of hundreds of years of racial and economic injustice and who are calling for real, concrete change. The PSEC seeks to answer this call to work for racial justice and create a culture of anti-racism within our churches and our communities by (1) facing and embracing our collective past, (2) opening our eyes, minds and hearts to the
present racial suffering and injustice, and (3) repenting and turning our hearts once again to our loving God who creates all of humanity in the divine image. This intergenerational sin can end with us as we work toward creating a culture of anti-racism and repair.
To this end, PSEC’s Zachariah Walker Racial Justice Initiative will offer ways that churches can stand in support of our Black members, neighbors, and friends. We will educate ourselves about the terrorism of white power and the violence of systemic racism and turn our hearts to action and prayer. The Zachariah Walker Racial Justice Initiative will be sharing with pastors and churches historical information, educational resources, and worship suggestions that follow the liturgical calendar, beginning in Advent 2020.
A few highlights of the themes for the liturgical year include:
- Advent – growing our awareness and shining the light of Christ on the historic atrocity of lynching and the violence of systemic racism suffered by Black individuals and communities
- Lent – exploring the intergenerational sins of racism; expressing grief and communal repentance in response to these sins
- Pentecost – offering a variety of actions congregations and individuals can engage in toward repairing wrongs and creating a culture of anti-racism
The project will culminate in an interfaith service of repentance and a sacred remembering of Zachariah Walker and the many people of color murdered by acts of racial violence in the United States.
Jesus told his followers to “…love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27). Loving our neighbor takes courage, commitment, and action. We hope that you will join the PSEC in remembering Zachariah Walker and working for racial justice as we remember the words of The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in his message to the wider church: “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
The time is now to raise our voices for good, and together, commit and hold ourselves accountable to create a culture of anti-racism, and do the hard work of racial justice. May we, too, dream dreams of racial equity, and together, through our work in Christ, let us make these dreams a reality.
If you have questions or would like to get involved, please contact PSEC’s Zachariah Walker Racial Justice Initiative Steering Committee:
Rev. Anne Cormier
PSEC Consistory Member | email@example.com
Rev. Cean James
Associate Conference Minister for Congregational Development | firstname.lastname@example.org
Rev. Ann-Therese Ortíz
PSEC Consistory Member | email@example.com
Holy Week Soul Searching: Owning Our Collective Story
Brene Brown, in a 2017 video, lifts up the importance of owning our story, our truth. She states that “we spend a lot of time running away from our stories. And our collective story in the United States is a largely a story of white supremacy. That is the story. That is our story.” She goes on to say that “if we truly own our story we get to write the ending…The stories that we don’t own collectively, own us.” As we enter into Holy Week and examine the wounds of Jesus, his suffering and sacrifice, may we also be willing to look at the wounds and long suffering of Black America inflicted largely by white America and racist policies. May we commit ourselves to the process of owning our collective story so we can write the ending – an ending of healing, resurrection and new life!
“For the Inward Journey,” part of the collection of Howard Thurman’s writings.
The concern which I lay bare before God today is
my concern for the life of the world in these troubled times.
I confess my own inner confusion
as I look out upon the world..
There is food for all – many are hungry.
There are clothes enough for all – many are in rags.
There is room enough for all – many are crowded.
There are none who want war – preparations for conflict abound.
I confess my own share in the ills of the times.
I have shirked my own responsibilities as a citizen.
I have not been wise in casting my ballot.
I have left to others a real interest
in making a public opinion worthy of democracy.
I have been concerned about my own little job,
my own little security,
my own shelter,
my own bread.
I have not really cared about jobs for others,
security for others,
shelter for others,
bread for others.
I have not worked for peace;
I want peace, but I have voted and worked for war.
I have silenced my own voice
that it may not be heard on the side of any cause, however right,
if it meant running risks or damaging my own little reputation.
Let Thy light burn in me that I may, from this moment on,
take effective steps within my own powers,
to live up to the light and
courageously to pay for the kind of world I so deeply desire.
PSEC Anti-Racism Statement
The Pennsylvania Southeast Conference of the United Church of Christ commits itself to the proclamation of the Gospel and the furthering of the mission of Jesus Christ. As disciples of Jesus, we are all called to follow the mandate to love one another completely, regardless of race, creed, gender, culture or difference. This is our mission: to speak the truth with love to powers and principalities, confronting bigotry and bias wherever we go.
We acknowledge the role that white Christians have played in both denying and, at the same time supporting, racist structures and attitudes, and we humbly beg forgiveness for our conforming to the evil of racism. We understand that bias can be an unconscious and unintentional failure, as well as a chosen worldview. We are reminded by the Scriptures that diversity and inclusion are necessary components of a mature, radically welcoming faith. We accept that each one of us has our own story to tell, our own history to own, and our own confession around racism for which we must atone.
Over the centuries, we have seen the pain and suffering brought about by systemic racism, and we commit ourselves to being proactively anti-racist in our work, our worship, and our communities. While we mourn the tragic losses created by a system rooted in white supremacy and nurtured by a system of white privilege, we commit ourselves to doing the work of Jesus to overcome hatred and oppression in our faith communities. We commit ourselves to opposing racism wherever it appears, whether it be institutional, economic, faith-based, or social.
Finally, we promise to be allies to all who are oppressed by these systems, committing ourselves to listen to the words of those who have been harmed by racism. We will stand in support of all who face oppressive situations, working together to dismantle the structures of this sin. We do this as servants of the risen Christ, who was Himself a poor person of color, oppressed by an invading nationalistic power, who was murdered for standing with others just like Him.
Add Your Name to the PSEC Anti-Racism Statement:
The Zachariah Walker Racial Justice task force of the PSEC of the United Church of Christ is inviting individuals and entire congregations to join our anti-racism initiatives and sign this anti-racism statement. Please click here to sign ipetitions.com/petition/psecucc-antiracism-statement
The statement with signatures will be released to the media on Jan. 15, 2021, the start of the weekend of MLK Day.
It is our hope that as we circulate this statement during Advent and Christmas-tide it promotes both reflection and discussion. Together, with courage in our hearts, we pray that Christ gives us the ability to understand this as a white problem that mars the soul of Christianity and our nation.
- How to Be an Anti-Racist Congregation: James Baldwin said, “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” The Zachariah Walker Racial Justice Initiative of the PSEC invites you and your congregation to be intentional about the ongoing work of racial equity and justice. To this end, we encourage you to view and share this 90-minute seminar on “How to Build an Anti-Racism Congregation” presented by Earl James. https://www.nbts.edu/events/things-can-make-congregation-anti-racist/ We ask you to please post this on your webpage and other social media platforms. The more people we have engaged in this holy conversation and sacred work, the sooner we can realize God’s deep shalom.
- Reparations: A Complex Matter: Listen in on The Rev. Tim Tutt, Westmoreland UCC, Maryland, moderator of this webinar, and his guest panelists as they explore what reparations might look like for their church communities as a part of their commitment to be antiracist congregations. The panelists are: The Rev. Grey Maggiano, Rector of Memorial Episcopal Church Baltimore, Maryland tells the story of his congregation’s journey as an antiracist congregation and how they came to understanding reparations after reviewing its congregation history through the lens of race.Sushama Austin- Connor, Director of Black Theology and Leadership Center at Princeton Seminary, which has made a financial pledge to reparations
The Rev. Shari Prestemon, Conference Minister of the Minnesota Conference of the UCC which has passed a resolution to be in a process of reparations.
The Rev. Marvin Silver, Associate Conference Minister for the Central Atlantic Conference of the UCC which is working with congregations exploring reparations. Bishop Scarf of the Episcopal Diocese of Iowa which Diocese is beginning the exploration of reparations.
For congregations-If you can only listen to some of it, don’t miss the Rev. Grey Maggiano talking about the journey their congregation has taken and where they are now. (7min.25 sec. mark & again at 42 min. mark)
- In the wake of the recent flood of concern surrounding policing and race in our country, many people are asking “How can I be an ally?” An article in Sojourners, written by Courtney Ariel, entitled “For Our White Friends Desiring to Be Allies”, Ariel writes “Being an ally is different than simply wanting not to be racist (thank you for that, by the way). Being an ally requires you to educate yourself about systemic racism in this country.” To learn how to become a better ally, click here for the full article.
- An Advent Examination: When Bigotry Paraded Through Our Churches and the Streets
- An Advent Examination: When Bigotry Paraded Through Our Churches and the Streets (printable version)
- Watch this 45-minute conversation with the Lead Caretaker of George Floyd Global Memorial. Her insight on this justice work is prophetic and profound. And, please share widely in your networks! We have a responsibility to hear the voices that we are called to amplify.
- You may have heard of the word “reparations” in relation to racial justice. This webinar is a wonderful place to start to begin to explore the complex issue of reparations. (Click here to view)
- “Questions After the Atlanta Mass Murders” from The Racial Justice Initiative Team of the Pennsylvania Southeast Conference.
Last week we again heard the horror of three deadly shootings, this time at Atlanta-area spas where eight people lost their lives. In the aftermath, many questions swirled around the situation, including the motive of the shooter and the treatment of the case by the Atlanta police.
The shooter, Robert Aaron Long, will face many charges as a result of his actions. However, the one most surprising to me was the verdict of his home church congregation that he was no longer welcome, he was no longer a member, he was expelled, he was too vile to be one of them.
This week’s actions provoked many questions for us, as congregations and as individuals. Included in a short list are: (Click here for full article)
- NBC 10 News recently put together a collection of news stories highlighting regional racial disparity in environmental issues. To view the clips, please click this link. Big thank you to Karl Jones for sharing this information with us
Anti-Racism Community Action
3 p.m. Tuesday Zoom Link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/81768305724?pwd=dW84dnFFeUN0anIvZU4xR3hYWlM2UT09
Meeting ID: 817 6830 5724
7:30 p.m. Tuesday Zoom Link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/83303546153?pwd=THIrYkgzWDJiSWhWbkFHQldheWFrUT09
Meeting ID: 833 0354 6153