by TJ Harper
In the past several months, I have been visiting an increasing number of churches in Connecticut and Massachusetts to preach and present workshops on racial justice. I have noticed that when congregations attempt to stand and address the racial injustices that plague our communities and our country, there is division within many congregations. Some pastors have privately expressed a deep reluctance to preach about racial justice due to possible backlash from parishioners. Some parishioners privately expressed to me that the congregation wants to do more to address racial justice, but the pastor is reluctant. In some cases, the pastor and the congregation want to work toward racial justice but do not agree on which path to take.
My message today is simple: Be a champion for racial justice. There is no one way or best way to achieve racial justice; instead, it is our collective differences and our united goal that will one day allow us to be successful in achieving equity for all God’s people. Some congregations might find it helpful to have a film or book discussion; other congregations might want to have a racial justice training; and some congregations might want to partner with local organizations in the community that serve people of color. While I cannot prescribe the best method for each church, congregations must be engaged in racial justice. Furthermore, members must be engaged in their communities, not confined to the concrete location of their congregation.
Black and brown people are being brutalized and exploited in America each day; and for me the only entity that serves as a beacon of hope is the Church. We cannot depend solely on the government for racial justice because it is bogged down with bureaucracy; we cannot depend solely on businesses as their principle goal is profit. The Church is best positioned to galvanize community members and partner with other organizations to take a stand for racial justice. If we are truly living the love and justice of Jesus we cannot be silent when our fellow siblings of color are being oppressed.
I am inspired when I see a lay-person step in front of the room and tell the entire congregation that we need to advocate for racial justice. I love to hear when a pastor preaches a racial justice sermon. I am overjoyed to learn about racial justice panel discussions that have occurred. However, these cannot be standalone events; we must be consistently learning more about racism, seeking how we can become more involved, assessing our own lives for where we might have exuded racism.
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