A Letter from St. Columba's Vestry, June 30, 2020
Through our Baptismal Covenant we have promised that "with God’s help, we will persevere in resisting evil, will seek and serve Christ in all persons, strive for justice, and respect the dignity of every human being." As the sin of racism bleeds through our lives, we believe that we should fundamentally commit ourselves and the church to stand against racism of every kind. Given the ways in which racism has infused and been built in to the structures and institutions of our society at every level, neutrality is not an option; doing nothing perpetuates racism. Thus, we are called to actively engage in dismantling racism; we must commit to becoming an anti-racist church – that is, to confront and overcome racism in ourselves, in our church, and in our society. This is not a commitment for the coming season; it is not an action item in a strategic plan. This is a commitment for life, a vital practice as we seek to Live God’s Love; it is inseparable from our identity as children of God and followers of Christ Jesus.
We come to this commitment with humility; we are not casting stones but rather acknowledging that we are all sinners. We recognize that as individual members of St. Columba’s, we are not of one mind on these matters. Some have devoted their lives to anti-racism, others are recently realizing racism’s insidious reach. We may have differences in our understanding of how racism manifests itself, and we may disagree on policy responses or strategies to eliminate it. We therefore wish to make clear: this is a journey that we hope all of us will take together.
Our commitment to be an anti-racist church means aligning the intentions of our hearts and minds with specific action steps across a wide spectrum in our congregational life:
- We will pray together each week for God’s wisdom, strength, and grace in pursuit of justice.
- Through the lens of our baptismal covenant, we will incorporate teaching and conversation in our curricula for every age, from Sunday School onward.
- We will support our youth in these conversations, and call upon them to lead the way for the rest of us.
- Numerous groups within St. Columba’s have already taken the initiative; e.g., the Father’s Group is reading Ibram Kendi’s How to Be an Anti-Racist; the Flower Guild is planning to read and discuss another book on the topic; and partnership with parents of St. Columba’s Nursery School is developing.
- We are particularly interested in deepening our collective understanding of the ways racism is maintained in our society through intersecting forces of legal statute, economic incentive, moral teaching, and private and public institutions. As the vestry, we are also eager to attain a better sense of how the church participates in, perpetuates, and/or benefits from these arrangements – and what we can do to reverse this. This will lead to analysis of such things as our Parish By-Laws and governance policies.
- Some of us will be moved to protest or to focus on advocacy in the public square, e.g., through participation in Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s initiative to Vote Faithfully and the Episcopal Public Policy Network. Some of us may focus on our private actions – how can we best be the change we wish to see in the world at home and at work, each day.
- As an expression of our commitment to strive for racial justice, we have put a Black Lives Matter banner on the lawn in front of the church.
- Since 2015, Stirring the Waters – St. Columba’s Ministry for Racial Justice, has been offering opportunities for parishioners to read, listen, learn, with faith-based curricula, small-group discussion, and forums engaging today’s prophetic voices. Stirring the Waters is committed to building upon and furthering this effort to engage one and all. Ideas, resources, and ways to engage are updated regularly at https://www.columba.org/serve
One of the gifts of a church is that we’re not alone; we are a community of people traveling together in mutual support the best we know how. We pray for one another, we help one another. When one strays, we seek them out. When I am tired, you hold me up; when you are tired, I shall hold you up. We can name this intention for us to be an anti-racist church; all of us are needed to make this a reality. No one of us shall inhabit the realm of God until we all inhabit the realm of God together. Wherever you are, please join and stay in the conversation. We need the integrity of your heart and voice; for we are one body in Christ, ever reaching beyond ourselves in love.
The Rev. Ledlie I. Laughlin, Rector
Stephen Smith & Abigail Gorman, Wardens
Members of the Vestry