“On Saturday, white supremacists violently attacked protesters marching against them in Charlottesville. A 20-year-old man, James Alex Fields Jr., allegedly rammed his car into a crowd of people, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring at least 19 others. Two state police officers also died while monitoring the protests after their helicopter crashed.
The next day was Sunday. And that mattered.”
— From the article “How Will the Church Reckon with Charlottesville?” by Emma Green in The Atlantic, published 8/13/2017. The full text of this article is worth reading, and is found here: https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/08/will-the-church-reckon-with-charlottesville/536718/
Dear First Parish Friends,
It was wonderful to see so many of you in worship yesterday, as we do each Sunday in the summer. Those who were present know that we began the service a bit differently than usual. We extended our time of Passing the Peace to include a word about this past weekend’s terrible happenings in Charlottesville, VA. The marching of white supremacists and white nationalists in large numbers during the “Unite the Right” rally was a harrowing sight. The injuries tragically amassed, including the death of counter-protester Heather Heyer, whose last words on Facebook were reportedly, “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.” I know that many of you are paying attention, and I hope you’re as troubled and outraged as we are. So that is why we began the service the way we did yesterday.
For those of you who couldn’t join us in yesterday’s service, we are posting this pastoral response here on our church website, per the request of a few of you to do so. The words are not so eloquent or different than many people of faith across this country who are working to end the scourge of white supremacy in this nation. But we think it’s important for us, as pastors of our predominantly white church, to specifically state our opposition to white supremacy. Especially since the white church has historically stood too close to the sidelines on issues like these.
And so we offer below the full text of our opening statement from yesterday’s service as a start, and only that. There is so much for us to do, individually and as a church, to help make God’s love and justice known in the world. In today’s society, one necessary part of that is to continue to speak and act out against white supremacy. So, remember that you are powerful agents for God’s peace and welcome in this world. Be brave, and keep your hope up for a better tomorrow. We believe it will come, trusting in the words of the gospel of John, chapter 16, verse 33, where Jesus says, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
Revs. Anastasia & Chad
Co-pastors, First Parish Truro
Passing of the Peace Opening:
(Anna) Before we continue in worship this morning we feel the need to acknowledge the unrest in our country, evidenced this weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia. The image of white supremacists gathered from every state in the union, marching proudly in the open without masks, but with torches and guns, was chilling, and not something I expected to see in 2017. I believe that my surprise is an indication of how little I understand. As pastor Traci Blackmon, one of our UCC ministers there on the front lines in Charlottesville said, “the sheets are off in America, and yet we (the church) must fight hate with love.” That’s why it’s so important that we gather this morning, and every Sunday morning. The church is meant to be a place to come together and remember that, in the midst of madness, good exists and peace is possible.
(Chad) And yet this peace does not come without effort. The theologian James Cone reminds us that during the most fervent period of lynching in this county’s history, the church scarcely said a word against it. Churches must break that pattern here and now. And so we must do our part. This morning we speak out to denounce injustice, and let us be very clear that we denounce white supremacy and white nationalism, and the bigotry they stand for. Today we remember the fallen, and we will work to resuscitate hope, because we are a people of a Book that speaks repeatedly of God and humanity together making a way forward when there seems to be no way. We are a people that follow the way of a radically inclusive rabbi, and we at First Parish Truro are an Open and Affirming church where welcoming all truly means “all,” so there is no room for us to equivocate!
(Anna) We start all of our services each week in the context of an action of peace. We always ask you to turn to your neighbors and shake a hand and welcome them to worship with a word of affirmation. Today, we ask you to do this again, to offer one another peace and welcome, but do it remembering that the fact that you’re here today makes you an emissary of peace and welcome in this world that needs these things so much.
And so we invite you to share with one another the peace of Christ.