This is what I know. This is how I am responding.
By: Rev'd Renee Dillard
For many reasons, and perhaps for too long, I have been at a loss for words. It's difficult, perhaps impossible, to make sense of violent and sudden death. Life is not supposed to end that way. Yet stories and images of violent and sudden death have been rolling in on us with alarming and growing frequency. The deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile - black men shot by white police officers - and the deaths of five white police officers in Dallas sparked an escalation of protests and demonstrations across our country. If you look only to the reactionary fallout on social media, it seems that our racial divisions are deepening. If you look only to the media, you may see some good reporting and you may see reporting that tries to sensationalize what is already a tense time in our city and in our nation.
If you draw close to your friends and family, even your church community, you are probably just reinforcing each other's long-standing beliefs about race and racism - whether you are firmly supportive of Black Lives Matter or whether you are one to quickly counter with All Lives Matter.
But this is an opportunity for all of us, an opportunity to listen more and talk less, an opportunity to move through our reactionary responses (perhaps good and necessary) and toward a faithful and sustained response.
I confess that I am still praying and pondering on how to do that.
Race is difficult for me. I have tons of white guilt, and I am fearful that I will say the wrong thing or somehow cause more harm than good. So I am trying to listen more and talk less. I am sending this out into the world because it is also important to bear witness, and it is always a good and right thing to speak for justice.
This is what I know.
God is good.
Black Lives Matter (and all lives cannot matter until black lives really do).
Racism is a white issue.
This is how I am responding.
Prayer. Lots of silent, listening prayer.
We have begun conversations at St. John's (a diverse congregation but predominately white) about how we can talk more honestly about race within our congregation. We have begun conversations about how we can listen better to our brothers and sisters of color, and how we can support their efforts rather than creating our own.
I am participating in weekly gatherings with clergy from across our city. Last week it was a joy to sing and pray with a diverse group of faithful church leaders. Looking forward to some honest and sacred conversation together next week.
I attended the Creative Aging event at Theater Memphis as Elaine Blanchard shared a remarkable and powerful story of her early and painful memories of racial hatred, punctuated by the music of Laurence Albert and Jill Brookoff. The discussion that followed was honest, difficult, and real.
July 29 I plan to attend "Listen for a Change: Sacred Conversations for Racial Justice" at St. Mary's Episcopal Cathedral.
As I write this the world is reeling yet again from an unthinkable terrorist attack in France. The violence continues. How will we respond?
Above all else, and before anything else, I ask myself if I have peace in my heart, I ask God to give me peace in my own heart, peace in my mind, peace in my spirit.
Only then can I be an instrument of peace for God, for God's kingdom, and for ALL of God's people.
Love God. Love neighbor. And know that you are loved.