The Work of Being Anti-Racist

May 31, 2020

Comments and prayer from the Reverend Pen Peery on Pentecost 2020

Before I call us to come before God in prayer, I would like to take a moment of pastoral privilege to address, directly, the moment we are in with our country roiling after the death of a another black person at the hands of law enforcement. What happened to George Floyd in Minnesota was tragic and wrong. Unfortunately, it was not new. George Floyd is a name we will add to a litany of names of black and brown people whose lives have been lost because of systematic racism. 

What we are seeing around the country is the cumulative impact of so many wrongful deaths. It’s not only about one black man. It needs to be addressed. It requires action. It is change that God desires and demands.

For the past 10 weeks I have treasured and been enriched through partnering with First United Presbyterian Church in worship.  To have our congregations – one proudly African-American, the other largely white, with our shared history – worshipping together in these times has been, I think, evidence of the gift of the Holy Spirit. 

But what I am very clear about – informed by my sisters and brothers of color – is that the work of being anti-racist (not simply “not-racist”) is work that white people must engage. So this morning I want to challenge the members of my congregation – First Presbyterian Church – to join me in getting serious about that work of being anti-racist. And I want to suggest two ways we can start – or continue – that work.

First, we need to educate ourselves about the impacts of racism and privilege. At noon today on our church’s webpage and social media pages we are publishing a curriculum of sorts for white people. I hope you will join Lindsey and me in reading, discussing, and learning from it. 

Second, we need to agree that we will confront racism in our own lives, circles, places of work…even families. Change starts small, but it starts with us. 

I believe this work of being anti-racist is a way we can respond to the good news of God’s claim on our lives and God’s hope for the world.

Now let us pray…

Most Holy and Gracious God –

On that day of Pentecost, when your presence was made manifest in the rush of mighty wind…

When you mixed up speech, in order that your name might be more widely shared…

When you agitated what seemed so decent and orderly, so that a small band of followers might become the body of Christ…

When you set your Spirit upon us, giving us both courage and boldness to face a broken world with resurrection hope and the conviction that what is broken will be redeemed…

On that day of Pentecost you reminded us that in these days, our young would see visions and our old would dream dreams.

And that in these days, our business would be about living into the promise of your kingdom, so that all who call upon your name would be saved.

And so, on this day of Pentecost, we pray that we might be so bold as to believe that there are still visions for us to see. And dreams for us to dream. That your Spirit still mixes us up, and agitates our order, and infuses us with courage, because we are still your people, anointed and charged with being your body in the world.

We pray for your world – that you call us to love.

And we ask, O Lord, that by your Spirit, you would dismantle systems and racism and free us from its stain and legacy. We pray for the family of George Floyd. We pray for communities who are sick and tired of being sick and tired. We pray for people of color who are too familiar with pain and fear. We pray for white people to wake up and get about the work. We pray for local and state officials who are charged with maintaining order and ask that they also practice patience. 

We pray for your church, that when people see us – be it in this room, or in our place of work, or in our neighborhoods – we pray that when people see your church, they would see love…love willing to sacrifice and stretch…willing to be odd for the sake of your promise and your vision.

And, finally, we pray for ourselves. A people who navigate many different worlds. A people who are capable of mischief and of mercy. A people who have all experienced joy and pain.

Bind us up where are a broken and weary.

Fill us up when our reservoirs are low.

Help us to shine as we reflect the light of your grace.

And keep us aware to the freshening wind of your Spirit.

We make this and all of our prayers in the strong name of Jesus.  AMEN