George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor. You know the names, and too many more, and perhaps you have shouted them in a protest or prayed them during worship. These black bodies were precious children of God. As followers of Jesus' Way of Love we are called to remind the world of the great loss of life when their lives were taken away, snuffed out, murdered. As Episcopalians, our Baptism vows implore us to "respect the dignity of every human being." Notice this vow says every, not some, not certain humans and not those who look just like me. Yes, black lives matter.
If those three words upset you or cause you to say something like "all lives matter" or "blue lives matter," please pause a moment and really think why you are saying this. Of course, all lives matter and of course the lives of our dedicated police officers matter. But please ask yourself – do black lives matter to you? Do people of black and brown skin fit into your definition of "every human being?"
This sort of self-evaluation and personal reflection – real life-long reflection – not just a passing thought – is the mission of the Namaste Commission. Yes, the members of this Commission oversee the preparation and execution of our Anti-Racism Dialogues required for all clergy and lay members serving on Diocesan committees, but our role is also racial reconciliation and healing.
In a meeting with Bishop Hughes this summer, members of the Namaste Commission were challenged to see this work in connection with our own spirituality, encouraged to learn the history of race in our personal story and greater community, and implored to take action. In an effort to assist you with these three dimensions of growth in your understanding of race, we would like to highlight our virtual library. This document is updated regularly and can assist with your self-reflection and action.
One easy action your congregation might consider is a 3-part conversation on race using the PBS Documentary "Race: The Power of An Illusion." If you have attended our Diocesan Anti-Racism Dialogues within the past five years, this was the pre-work. The documentary is three one-hour segments which the Diocese has paid to stream via Vimeo. Due to copyright laws the videos must be used during events sponsored within our Diocese. Would your congregation want to host a discussion group via Zoom this fall? You could have members watch the video ahead (you would get a logon and password from us) and gather online for a discussion. There is also a workbook/guide to assist with your discussions which we can provide you.
Many of us want to "do" something because of the murder of George Floyd and countless others. One of the best things we can do – especially as white people – is to educate ourselves about the history of race in this country and come to understand how our lives can approach Becoming Beloved Community as Presiding Bishop Michael Curry so often reminds us. This is your call. Do you accept? How will you answer?
If you are interested in starting a conversation on race at your congregation, please email Co-Chair of Namaste, the Rev. Jerry A. Racioppi at email@example.com.
Ken Bledsoe, St. John’s Ramsey
Bill Cruse, St. John’s Ramsey
Helen Dannatt, Christ Church Newton
Stacy Graffam, Holy Communion Norwood
Janelle Grant, St. Paul’s Paterson
Jane Jubilee, Diocese of Newark
Margaret King, St. Paul’s Englewood
Valyrie Laedlin, St. George’s Maplewood
Jerry Racioppi, Holy Spirit Verona
Karen Rezach, St. Thomas Lyndhurst
Jerrick Rutherford, St. Andrew Holy Communion S. Orange
Peter Savastano, St. Luke’s Montclair
Tristan Shin, Christ Church Short Hills
Lauren Simon, St. Paul’s Englewood
Michele Simon, St. Paul’s Englewood
Joan Slepian, Redeemer Morristown
Sun Spriggs, St. George’s Maplewood
Virginia Whatley, St. Paul’s Paterson