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Keeping vigil in Ferguson

Keeping vigil in Ferguson

While the Governor and the Missouri Highway Patrol has taken charge of being the police presence to the neighborhoods, protesters, and journalists responding to the death of Michael Brown last weekend, the Ferguson police and the country district attorney continue to lead the investigation, so we are seeing some contradictory information from official sources. Meanwhile, Episcopalians locally and nationally continue to minister to the situation.

The Very Rev. Michael Kinman, Dean of Christ Church Cathedral in St. Louis wrote to his congregation:

As the week has unfolded, more and more of us are being moved by what is happening in Ferguson and are asking “What can I do?” There certainly is much to do — things that can be done right now and, even more important, things that must be done in the long run after the cameras are gone and our attention has been tempted elsewhere.

But before we get to the “What can I do?” question, the more important question for us as Christians is “Who should we be?”

Paul gives us an answer to that in 2 Corinthians 5. He says we are called to be “ambassadors of Christ” and “given the ministry of reconciliation.” That means we are to be reconcilers of human beings to God and human beings to one another as children of God.

The “doing” that comes from that is a ministry of standing with.

It means standing with the young, African-Americans of Ferguson as their voice is heard and their experience of what it is to grow up black in America is heard.

It means standing with the police — and even (perhaps especially) standing with Officer Darren Wilson.

It means standing with the residents and business owners in Ferguson as they struggle to keep their community together and, eventually, to rebuild.

“Standing with” as a Christian is, as people who are in need of our hearts being converted ourselves, being present with each in all our complexity and calling each and all of us to reach for and embody our best selves. To live into that image of God that is our truest identity and God’s dream for us. To call ourselves and one another to confession, repentance and amendment of life where necessary but affirming that it all happens in the context of God’s unfailing love for Every One Of Us.

That’s what standing in the breach means. It’s not a place of easy answers and people of pure good and pure evil. It’s messy. It’s real. And it’s where we’re called to be.

Dean Kinman then lists a variety of resources with links available to readers.

The Union of Black Episcopalians wrote to their members:

As members of the Union of Black Episcopalians we share the continued distress felt by our larger African American community regarding the police shooting of an unarmed black man in Ferguson, Missouri.

The recent public attention to mortal violence against black men, including the shooting of teenager Trayvon Martin by a neighborhood watchman in Sanford, Florida, the illegal choking and death of Eric Garner by New York City Police officers, and the police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri are but a few of such tragic events.

In all of these events, we unite with community and civil rights groups to express outrage and demand justice for Michael Brown and a continued discussion about racial bias in using deadly force on unarmed citizens. We also demand that the collective voice of the black community be heard firmly and peaceably….

…local chapters and black congregations should use this sensitive time, of public awareness regarding race and injustice, to ask its bishops and diocesan leaders to encourage constructive conversations at the regional and local levels. Only by constructive and proactive dialogue can our Episcopal Church be a leader in the call to build a more just society of our communities and the nation.

The National Union will continue to work with other church bodies who are concerned with these ongoing matters of race and justice. UBE and the Episcopal Church must be a leading voice in the mission of a just and peaceable Kingdom as envisioned by our Lord Jesus Christ.


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