In the wake of the Michael Brown and Eric Gardner killings, my Facebook newsfeed has been filled with pictures and articles and thoughts from friends in the Episcopal Church of the United States.
I have watched in deep admiration as clergy and laypeople have gotten themselves organized to take their churches to the street, participating in the waves of protests over a racist system that not only fails to protect black Americans but actually places them in greater danger, particularly – but not exclusively – young black men. Christian leaders and their counterparts in other faiths have come together to speak out against this injustice and to call on government and police leaders to respond with meaningful change. Through it all, I have joined my friends in prayers for their safety, for the protection and healing of their communities and the victims of this violence, and for the arrival of justice and righteousness.
But my prayers, as they often do, began to say something I hadn’t intended as the Spirit spoke on my behalf.
I found myself praying for the courage and energy to bear true witness to our Incarnate Lord by entering bodily into the messy work of transforming our society. I found myself praying for a church – local, diocesan, national, ecumenical – that could lead such work and make itself present and available to a suffering, struggling world. Perhaps most of all, I found myself praying for forgiveness for my own complicity in injustice and inaction.
This is not to say that there is not good and important work being done by Anglican parishes across this country and by our national church, as well. I know of parishes, including my own, that join in protests and hold vigils and write letters to decision-makers; parishes that are involved in both raising money and providing direct services for people who are ill-served by our society; parishes that take education and advocacy seriously; parishes that make international development a priority in their ministries of giving and outreach.
But it seems mostly pretty polite, pretty clean, pretty proper. And I wonder if there is a need for us to get a little dirty, a little angry, and a lot more organized.
I offer these thoughts with some trepidation and a great deal of humility. I don’t pretend to know all the good work that is happening at every level around our church. I may well be missing some vital information that would lead me to just the kind of action I am talking about (let me know if that’s the case!). I certainly don’t claim to know which problem(s) we should address or how we should do it and I really, really don’t want to take the lead…
But I do know that we are the Body of Christ and I believe that God has provided in our midst the prophets and activists we need to live into that truth. I pray that I will be given the wisdom to recognize them and the strength to join them.