By Tiffany Vail
Associate Conference Minister for Communications
The Rev. Damarais Whittaker called on church members gathered at the Reviving Justice event this weekend to rise up, live into the discomfort of change and reclaim the voice of Christianity in a world that is in desperate need.
"This is not your time to be comfortable, people, get over that," she said. " This is the most inappropriate time to be seeking comfort. Lives are at stake here."
Whittaker said Christians need to recognize that comfort is not our goal - disruption is. "Because we are disrupters, I hope," she said. "Because if we’re not disrupting, who is? If the church is not disrupting, who are we delegating the disrupting to? We are disrupters. Come to terms and get comfortable with that ... Because after disruption comes revolution and after revolution comes innovation."
Whittaker, Senior Minister at Fort Washington Collegiate in New York City, and formerly a pastor in Hartford, delivered the sermon at the opening worship at Saturday's event, which was focused on inspiring action around justice. The event, hosted by First Church of Christ in Simsbury, was attended by nearly 90 people from across the Conference and beyond, and it included workshops and panel discussions on racism, environmental racism, immigration justice and community organizing.
At the end of the event, participants heard from CTUCC Legislative Advocate Michele Mudrick on how to to rise up by contacting their legislators, and they were encouraged to take home signs to display at their homes and churches. The signs were donated by First Church of Christ in Simsbury and Immanuel Congregational Church in Hartford.
Whittaker urged those in attendance to go back to their churches and call on others in their congregations to rise up.
"We need to speak in our own churches, our own meetinghouses, our own parlors and say to the church, 'I say to you, rise,' she said. "How are we going to rise at a time of affliction to those who are in the margins? How are we rising where there are children now being placed in concentration camps? How are we rising when we are spending so much money to support a border wall ... while our kids in our urban schools don’t have enough books?"
"How are we rising to the call that we are hearing, the spirit that’s burning in our hearts, the courage that’s just dying to come out of us and be manifest, not only in our meetinghouse but in the world, how are we rising to those who are hurt and injured and seeking healing?"
Whittaker also chastised those who want the the church to remain quiet.
"We cannot have any politics in the pulpit - have we not said that? That statement on its own is a political statement," she said. "My grandmother used to say those who are silent, concede. If we are saying to our ministers 'no, you cannot speak about all these things,' than we are silent, and we are conceding."
Whittaker called on churches to leave behind the "idolatry of our organs and our choirs and our music" and to rise up from the "rubble of tradition."
"Until the mainline church understands that our life resides in the margins, we will still be fighting over the Pilgrim Hymnal and the choir and the organ and all of the traditions that we think if we leave behind, we will die," she said. "The thing is: We've got to let go."
"I hope that we show up, like Jesus shows up," she said. "Unapologetic, political, disruptive, spirit-filled. I hope that we show up, because this world is waiting for the church. And it's not waiting for committees. This world is waiting for a church that says 'rise up, live.'
"We have been called for a time such as this, and that means that we change our language, that we change our ways, and that we endure the pain of change," she said. "We will not die if we endure the pain of change. But we will die if we refuse to change."