I’m seeing the news late. No ambiguity is possible here — this is terrorism in support of a white supremacist ideology. What else can we do but condemn it for what it is, and accept God’s call to do what each of us always has the power to do, no matter what: be a force for the good in a harsh era. We are better than this.

—Barbara Cawthorne Crafton

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

I write to you this week not only in pastoral response to the ugly racism, bigotry and violence in Virginia this past weekend, but also to raise the deeper question for this parish in this time of transition: What is the role of our parish in such times as these?

To witness scenes of ugliness and violence by those who espouse hatred and violence against a certain race, class, or religion is deeply disturbing—as it should be. Such outrageous behavior and belief is of course anathema to the Way of Life that Our Lord Jesus Christ calls us to.

Our Pastoral Response: This is a time to remember who we are as “brothers and sisters one to another,” and that the Church is here to offer a place to come together in that spirit of healing and support.  To that end, I want to offer to keep open our sanctuary, especially in the coming weekdays, as a place of quiet, and prayer, and healing for our neighborhood community. I want you to know that, as priest in this parish, I am of course available for anyone who wishes to pray, or discuss, or simply sit with one another as we process our hurt and our outrage over these events.

Are there ways that you can think of to support one another, perhaps with phone calls during the week, or a Healing Time between services when we can share our feelings and thoughts, or even special prayers during worship? We are, after all, “members one of another” in this mysterious, profound “body of Christ.”

Our Prophetic Response: The Church, of course, has a responsibility not just for the wounds of its own members, however, but also to offer to the world Jesus’ revolutionary vision of a world without bigotry, hate, or violence. As my colleague Greg Kinmon put it so well this week,

“When we see evil like this, we must name it, confront it, resist it and defeat it. If we do not, we should not pretend that we follow Jesus. And churches and supposed Christians who are silent at this moment are making a clear choice for hate over love, Empire over the Kingdom of God and the false Gospel of white supremacy over the revolutionary love of Jesus.”

Many of the churches in 1930’s Germany were silent when Hitler’s Brown Shirts marched with torches in the night, and espoused racist beliefs about the “White superiority of true Germans,” and blamed Jews and other minorities for their nation’s troubles. History tells us what happened because of that silence. Our own president’s failure to specifically condemn white racist groups is a chilling reminder of what happens in History when we fail to stand up against such evil and fail to name it for what it is.

This week, we will keep open our doors for anyone to spend quiet time in prayer, or in discussion with clergy or one another. But let us consider what Our Lord might be calling us to do in the future, that we might teach the world what we ourselves have promised in our Baptismal Covenant, to “strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being.”