Then I hear the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?”
And I said, “Here am I. Send me.”
Standing before a multi-racial, interfaith gathering outside of St. John’s, Lafayette Square on June 14, Bishop William Barber reminded us of our history. At the center of every social movement for greater freedom and justice in this country, he said, there have always been people of all faiths and skin color, all backgrounds and social status motivated by their deepest values to stand up and change the world.
The movement to abolish slavery was made of enslaved people, free African Americans, Quakers, white evangelicals, Lincoln Republicans and radical abolitionists. Both blacks and whites were part of the anti-lynching movement of the late 19th/early 20th century. People of all races and religions joined Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1965 for the Civil Rights March in Selma. The struggle for equity and inclusion for LGBTQ persons has involved heterosexual persons. The struggle for equity and inclusion for those with physical disabilities has always included those more able-bodied.
So, too, now, we see people speaking out and standing together for justice across a vast spectrum. George Floyd’s death struck a collective nerve. His cry expressed the pain of so many who cannot breathe under the weight of racism and the glaring inequities in our land. Now is an opportunity to address long-standing wounds and fissures, and the current manifestations of our nation’s deepest sin.
As Bishop Barber spoke, I felt the familiar sense of being summoned by God to show up and do my part. There are so many reasons why I feel unprepared and inadequate for this moment. But how I feel could not be more irrelevant. The summons–the call–is to show up, take my place among others, and make my offering. I can do that, and so can you.
No matter who we are or where we come from; no matter what we know or what we have to learn; no matter what we need to take on or let go, there is a place for us now, an offering we can make to change our nation for the better.
There is a sense of urgency not merely to speak out, but to act. The reality is that many in our diocesan community and beyond have been taking action for years, in all realms of justice. Others among us are waking to this particular moment with a sense that God is summoning us to join in good work already begun, or to go deeper in our commitments, both personally and as a church. If this is, indeed, a kairos moment, pregnant with the possibilities of God, we all want to show up. We don’t want to miss this moment.
We’re also taking time to prayerfully listen to one another, especially to our rising generation of leaders in the church, as we consider what following Jesus’ way of love looks like now. Across the diocese, we are showing up in our communities, joining the much wider manifestation of the Spirit stirring in our land. For the summer, we had already planned a review and recasting of our diocesan strategic plan in light of COVID-19. Now that work will include a clearer focus on our commitment to justice, not as one priority among three, but as a lens through which all our efforts will be measured going forward.
If you’re wondering how and where you are being called, summoned by God to this moment, rest assured that you are not alone. We’re all wondering, and praying, and listening, and showing up as best we can. History teaches us that there won’t be one answer, but many; not one way to be faithful; but many. We aren’t the only voices that matter, but our voices do matter, and they are sorely missed when we are silent. Ours isn’t the only presence that matters, but our presence matters and we’re missed when we don’t show up in whatever way we can.
Thank you for answering the call and for showing up. I’m honored to stand with you.