The pastoral letter is typically written collaboratively by UCUCC’s three pastors. We intend it for everyone in the congregation as a way of lifting up our values and holding us together in covenantal relationship.
In light of this week’s verdict in the Derek Chauvin case, the ongoing police violence, and our congregations commitment to racial justice we are adjusting the format this week. This is a message from one of our white pastors to the white members of our community. We honor that we are a community that includes Black folks and People of Color and that as a predominately white institution any public pastoral letter for our community of color would be filtered through the white gaze (if you are unfamiliar with that term, please google it). Pastor Amy, our Black pastor, is making a specific offer for processing and pastoral care with our members of Color. Pastor Catherine remains on vacation this week and returns Sunday morning.
To white folks like me: This is not our time.
There’s a common guideline for community discussions: make space and take space. If you are sharing a lot be sure to make space for others to participate; if you are not sharing, take up space and participate.
I’ve drafted this week’s letter about 4 times before landing on this truism. This is a time for white folks to make space. The guilty verdict in Derek Chauvin’s trial for murdering George Floyd does not need white commentary. It is not ours to declare justice. It is not ours to claim as a victory, even a small one. At most, we can amplify the reactions of Black leaders. Otherwise, this is a chance for us to bear witness. It is a place for us to reflect internally and with other white people about what we are hearing. Or just let conversations happen and not feel a need to be part of them. How do we feel about a space for public discourse where our job is to listen?
Bishop Yehiel Curry of the Metropolitan Chicago Synod is a friend and colleague and someone I have worked with on racial justice within faith communities. He names an impulse among white leaders to “check-in” with Black folks after news breaks around Black trauma. Do we do that same type of checking in with other white people? Are we asking this of our white family members, white neighbors, other white people in our congregation? Or do we look for Black people, Indigenous people and people of Color to do the emotional labor of describing how they feel to help us know how we should feel?
If we have authentic, vulnerable, and trusting relationships with Black folx and they want to talk about Black Joy or Black pain they will know we are available. We will have natural places for these conversations to emerge because we don’t only “check-in” when headlines tell us we should. And there are plenty of leaders in the Black community – in Seattle, in Minnesota, across the country – that are speaking publicly where we can listen.
Let us in this moment make space.
May it be so,
Pastor Steve Jerbi