Early Sunday morning (around 4:30 am) one of the pastors of our church arrived on our campus to continue his preparation to preach. When he pulled into the parking lot he noticed 3 teenage boys fleeing the church property, one with a crowbar in his hand. He quickly realized that he had interrupted a spree of all sorts of bad decisions by these youth, including vandalism of some vehicles left in our parking lot by adults chaperoning our youth who were attending Pilgrimage and also spray painting some offensive graffiti on our mobile classrooms.
The police came, fingerprints were taken and our church trustees and others made sure that the ugliness was painted over. Pastor Cameron Merrill felt led to change up his sermon to respond to the attack on our church campus and addressed the situation beautifully.
Since then, I have learned more about the specifics of what took place and there has been an outpouring of concern, love and support for our church family. For those that may not be aware, our Senior Pastor, Donna Banks, is a Black woman, a strong leader who followed Leonard Fairley, another African American pastor who became the Capital District Superintendent, was elected Bishop and who now leads the Kentucky and Red Bird Mission Annual Conferences.
Saint Francis is a predominantly “white” congregation with a growing sprinkle of diversity as we attempt to be open to ALL people. The momentum hasn’t quite taken off like we would have hoped yet but we value and recognize that all people are created in God’s image and have sacred worth and we hope that all who enter our church grounds will feel welcome. We have an organically growing movement with other churches in the area who are recognizing our need to provide education and advocacy opportunities on all sorts of issues affecting our church and society. We have held opportunities to dialogue on Human Sexuality, Mental Health, Immigration and on a Pilgrimage of Peace in Israel and Palestine. We have held classes to deal with all sorts of destructive “isms” and have particularly focused on racism. At least 2 groups studied the book “America’s Original Sin” focusing on the sin of racism. We held a Racial Taboo event last January and have followed up with several months of learning about African American history through a “Many Rivers to Cross” documentary series. We participated in a trip to the Civil Rights Museum and Beloved Community Center in Greensboro. We have held a forum to better understand racial gerrymandering in North Carolina and recently viewed the film “Wilmington on Fire”, followed by a discussion with the producer and others to better understand the racially motivated massacre in Wilmington, NC in 1898. We currently have two groups studying “The New Jim Crow” book that brings light to mass incarceration issues. We are working with the Town of Cary to host a variety of opportunities for people of all ages and stages in the conversation on race over Martin Luther King weekend and we are at work in considering additional ways that we can continue the conversation and create space for advocacy.
We have no idea how much of this was known by those who desecrated Christ’s church or what motivated them to do what they decided to do in the wee hours of the morning. When the car headlights caught them in action, they fled into the woods backing up to an affluent Cary neighborhood.
There has been an outpouring of support from friends in our neighboring churches who are appalled at what happened. Some are very angry, others very sad, some who are committed to praying for our church and those who committed these acts of vandalism. Many want to know what they can do to help.
My personal suggestion for those of you want to know what you can do to help is simply this. Become active in addition to your prayers, God’s people are expected to become active in providing answers to prayers in addition to simply lifting them up. Participate in training offered through groups like OAR or IDR or at the very least take some online tests to help you understand your implicit biases (implicit.harvared.edu). Join us in our attempts to dismantle racism. So many people want to stick their head in the sand as act as if racism is not a problem in this country or to claim that they are “color-blind” which is not helpful either. Racism is alive and real and heightened during our current climate. If your church is not engaging in dismantling racism, then I would like to boldly ask you to consider your commitment to participating in relevant, Kingdom work. The church needs to lead in this effort. The Capital District Dismantling Racism Team is a multi-cultural group of clergy and laity who have been meeting regularly, forming relationships, working on our own “stuff” and participating in training together and we are available to help your church consider how you might engage in the work of racial reconciliation. The church needs to lead in this effort. Let us be bold and do so.
If you would like to print or share this edition of Claire…ification,
you are encouraged to use this pdf:
Claire – How Are We to Respond When Others Sin Against Us
To read past editions – you are encouraged to follow this link: