Earlier this week, I listened to my friend and colleague the Rev. Dr. Starsky Wilson do a radio interview. As a pastor, President and CEO of the Deaconess Foundation, activist, lecturer, and former co-chair of the Ferguson Commission, his time is in demand. If you listen to him, you can understand why. He talks with precision, passion, righteous anger, and grace about the complexities and layers of racial injustice in the United States.
The past week’s events seemed to cascade one after another, presenting most of us with more to think about than we can process. The killing of George Floyd not only brings up the reality of racism in our country, but forces us to grapple with the ways we interact with that reality. Some of us are the daily victims of it. Others of us benefit from it. Some of us knowingly, but most often we are unknowingly complicit in it. Many of us are trying to figure out how we better name it, understand it, and resist it. No matter what though, it is our collective problem.
When you take the protests and unrest and add to it the political division in our country and the lack of real leadership in our government, the way forward becomes even less clear. As a pastor, I find myself torn in weeks like this – torn between my deep need to listen, consider, and digest what is happening and the need (arising from my role as pastor) to speak a word about it all. In a week where everyone seemed to be saying so much, I took a lot of time to listen to others. Rev. Starsky is one of the voices I appreciate, and have learned from, the most.
In his interview, he at one point said that people, especially white people, “like to learn”. The point was right – people are often moved in times like this to read a book, listen to a podcast, have a conversation, attend a lecture, or experience a protest. People like to learn. But, then Rev. Wilson pointed out that “what we don’t like to do is unlearn”. We don’t necessarily like to go back in our own personal or collective experiences and figure out what needs to be unlearned, deconstructed, discarded, and stopped. We like the work of adding on the new insights, but not always the work of figuring out what about our own life needs to be left behind if we are to move forward.
This weekend in worship, I am continuing our series Reset: When It’s Time to Start Again. While the series was conceived before the killing of George Floyd, I have found that each week the questions asked and the topics that I want to raise directly apply to our current situation. This week, the question I want us to consider is this: Before you can move forward, what in your life needs to stop? Unlearning old ways of acting, thinking, and speaking are critical if we are to learn a new way to move forward – both in our personal lives and our lives together in this country.
It is an important season for us to worship together. Don’t forget that we have added new live worship times. We are online Sundays at 8, 9 10:45am and 8pm. You can also catch worship any time after Sunday on The Gathering’s website or app. I’m grateful for all the voices like Rev. Wilson’s that I get to learn from. That includes YOUR voice. I appreciate all the ways that you speak up and speak out – about your own experiences, your own perspectives, and your own commitment to the work of love and justice. Thank you for continually teaching me, even as I offer a word to you. I am grateful for all of you, and I will see you online this Sunday!