Today is a day of remembrance for the City of Charleston. We take time to honor those who lost their lives on June 17th, 2015 at Mother Emanuel Church. It’s a day to pray for those who continue to grieve their loved ones and for all who were affected by this traumatic event.
It’s also, officially, a Day of Repentance in the Lutheran church of which I’m a part (ELCA.) The perpetrator of this terrible crime had grown up in a Lutheran church, and our denomination has wrestled with that fact ever since.
I have done my own wrestling, since I’m a Lutheran pastor. I spent many years working with youth just like that young man. As a woman in leadership, I was focused on lifting up gender inequities and creating space for conversations about sexuality. But I didn’t talk much about the racial inequities all around us, and for that, I need to repent.
Repentance comes from the Greek word meaning “to turn around.” And as a leader, I am working on turning around to face the issues of race and inequity in our community and in our world. In my new position as Executive Director of Tricounty Family Ministries, I’m deepening our connections in the community so that we can build relationships and understand the struggles of our neighbors. We’re finishing up a Strategic Plan that will expand the services we provide, but also put front and center this effort to listen to our community.
We’re planning to host a monthly Saturday Gospel Brunch where we can celebrate the amazing people and talents that make up our neighborhood and where we can listen to our neighbors’ ideas for improvements. This event will be more than just fantastic local music and great local food. We’ll be intentional about the conversations we engage in, using stories of faith to help us make connections with one another. And as we talk and eat and sing together, we’ll become better listeners, we’ll recognize our privilege and our baggage, and together, we’ll be able to turn around and face the issues that challenge our community.
So as we remember Clementa and Cynthia, Susie and Ethel, Depayne and Tywanza, Daniel and Sharonda and Myra today, let’s also repent of whatever has been getting in the way of listening and understanding and taking action. And together, we’ll transform our communities with justice and peace and love.