Dear St. John’s Community
We, like many of you, are deeply grieved by the events of the past weeks. We hear the anguished cries of our black and brown friends and neighbors, as protests over the murder of George Floyd have opened the door for a much broader lament. We hear the voices of distress as protests have become sites of more violence. We have seen churches and communities of faith become the focal point of conflict, and deployed for political ends. We have worried about the future of peace in our country. Like you, we have wondered what the “right thing” to say and do are.
Amidst all of this, we know that even in (especially in) uncertain times we are called to speak up and we are called to listen to the voices of black and brown communities. We are called to believe them when they say something is wrong.
We follow a God who has consistently stood on the side of the oppressed, from the Israelites escaping Egyptian rule to Jesus confronting the money-changers in the temple. Choosing to stand on the side of the oppressed is not a partisan stance, it is a Christian stance. We know that there are members of this congregation who stand on both sides of the political gulf that divides our country. There are powerful ways to bear witness to Christian values as a liberal, and there are powerful ways to do so as a conservative.
It is knowing this, that we believe that St. John’s Church has a responsibility to step up our commitment to becoming a more anti-racist community. This work already was courageously begun by our congregation in the wake of the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. when we started the St. John’s Day Camp. We have continued it more recently through our study of the Evangelical leader, Jim Wallis’ book “America’s Original Sin.” It has already begun in our study of this history of people of color in Cold Spring Harbor, especially those buried in the Harbor Road Burying Ground across from the Rectory.
There is more to do. We invite each and every person at St. John’s to find some way to actively engage in listening to people of color in this moment. For some of you this may mean showing up in person to protest the unequal treatment of people of color by the police. For others it may mean picking up a book written by a black author you’ve been intending to read. We’d like to commend this list of resources.
As a church, we began last week by inviting Pastor David Brawley, the pastor of a predominantly African-American congregation, St. Paul’s Community Baptist Church in Brooklyn to preach. To hear Rev. Brawley's sermon, click the link HERE. Our Rector preached last Sunday at our neighboring Episcopal Church of the Advent in Westbury and the Rector of the Church of the Advent, the Rev. Eddie Alleyne, will be our guest preacher on Sunday, June 28.
We will be inviting a dialogue between our church and other communities of color in the months to come. We also want to invite some of you into a more serious “Sacred Ground” conversation with members of other Episcopal parishes in our diocese via zoom this summer. This is an opportunity to make a deeper commitment to understanding the issues that are being lifted up by communities of color in this moment.
This is a challenging time, but we believe this is a challenge that we must undertake in the faith that God will guide us through this moment if we are willing to be led.
The Clergy and Wardens of St. John's Church