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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 | annecormier@comcast.net

Rev. Cean James
Associate Conference Minister for Congregational Development | james@psec.org

Rev. Ann-Therese Ortíz
PSEC Consistory Member | ortizat@hotmail.com

 


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.


Educational Materials

 


Liturgical Offerings

Advent Candle Lighting Liturgy: Download DOC; Open PDF


Articles

An Advent Examination: When Bigotry Paraded Through Our Churches and the Streets

An Advent Examination: When Bigotry Paraded Through Our Churches and the Streets (extended version)


Anti-Racism Community Action

 


Events

 

 

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