Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,
You may be aware that several hate groups are planning to gather in Richmond this weekend. In response, others are planning counter-protests. As rostered leaders, you may wish to respond and know where to safely direct others in your congregations and communities. Here are some suggestions:
I believe it is always important to first acknowledge our own involvement in the attitudes and systems that have created and still maintain inequality and injustice in our relationships, congregations, and culture. This is a long-term, repetitive and often painful process of self-examination, confession, repentance and when possible, concrete actions to be a “repairer of the breach.” (Isaiah 58: 12b)
At the same time, when we have the opportunity to clearly proclaim the truth of God’s love and merciful embrace of all people, without distinction (Galatians 3:28), we are called to speak boldly! This applies to our family, friends, colleagues, congregations and in the wider community.
When groups seeking to incite and perpetuate racism, hatred, bigotry, and violence, as well as those who wish to disrupt and forcefully, oppose them converge, a potentially very dangerous situation emerges. How then are we to respond faithfully?
I have been in conversation with the Dean in the Richmond Conference, our staff, members of the synod’s Tapestry group and our ecumenical and institutional partners in Richmond. We are in general agreement that the wisest and most faithful response is to:
- Lift all in harm’s way in prayer and thus pray for enemies and all others alike;
- Preach, teach and plan for ongoing conversations in our communities about the systemic issues that create and fuel privilege, prejudice and fear – and the way of Jesus to guide our response;
- Reach out to individuals and groups in your community with whom you can build or strengthen positive and productive relationships, including those targeted by hate groups, ecumenical and interfaith partners – working to be proactive rather than just reactive wherever possible.
- If your conscience compels you to be physically present in Richmond, please be aware of requests from many area officials to avoid any areas in which these groups are likely to gather – lest by your presence you add to the chaos or become a victim of violence.
- Instead, here are a couple of events that do not include direct confrontation endorsed or planned by trusted partners of the VA Synod in the Richmond area:
- A Prayer Service on Friday 9/15 at 7:00 p.m. in St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 815 Grace Street, Richmond, VA (Organized by the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia)
- There is also a non-confrontational event called “Richmond Stands United for Racial Justice Rally” planned by First Unitarian Universalist Church, the Richmond Peace Education Center and the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy on Saturday 9/16 8:45 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. at the Maggie Walker Monument on Broad Street in Richmond. This may be followed by a march to Monument Ave. (Again, I urge all to avoid any direct confrontation with these potentially dangerous groups of people.)
Along with those attending our Synod Council retreat, I will lift all involved and affected by these events in prayer and continue conversations with our elected leaders and staff about how to further respond as we plan for the future. I appreciate your prayers and look forward to discovering where God will lead us!
Bishop Bob Humphrey