Thank you to the ELCA’s Metro Chicago Synod for inviting me to share in the synod’s day of reflection in commemoration of the Emanuel 9. Following are the words I shared. The video is here.
On this, our first year in the ELCA with a designated commemoration of the martyrdom of the Emanuel 9, one question top of mind for me is this:
What will we say next year? Will we repeat the same words of lament? Will we offer the same confession? Will we do it all again the next year and the next?
A bigger question is…will we change in between those years?
I thought, surely, if there was anything that would ingrain in the minds of Christians…of Lutherans…the harm of white supremacy, it would be 9 people killed in their church in Bible study by a shooter nurtured in one of our congregations.
But, today, as we have some of the same conversations as five years ago. As we share book lists and movie lists, refreshed with new titles, as I hear the same kinds of stories coming from my colleagues about the racist microaggressions and macroaggressions they experience in the church, when the same kinds of complaints come from some ELCA members upset because the presiding bishop speaks out about racism, when there are preachers who continue to remain silent, I have to wonder if the biggest impact of the murder of the Emanuel 9 on the church has simply been tighter security at our buildings.
This time has to be different. We cannot continue to call the names of Sharonda, Cynthia, Susie, Ethel, DePayne, Tywanza, Daniel, Myra, and Clementa every single year, read the same words of lament and confession once a year, and not work to dismantle racism all the rest of the year. Otherwise, it’s simply a performative gesture and empty words.
Church, may this time, be different.