Responding to Charleston and The State of Racism

“O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us; unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

– Collect for the Human Family from The Book of Common Prayer

rencherIn the wake of the June 17th killing of nine of God’s beloved children at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church in Charleston, South Carolina, as they gathered for prayer, fellowship, and study of The Holy Scriptures, I invite you, first and foremost, to join me in unceasing prayer before we act. Let us pray for the human family and for God to do what only God can do: heal us and make us whole.

This earthly journey calls for us to navigate its brokenness and its broken people, employing the faith imparted to us through the waters of Baptism and acknowledging that every human being is created in the image of God. The journey also expects you and I to be (or become) a people of hope, justice, and love, amid our natural sadness, anger, confusion, questions, and Christian belief that death is not the final answer. Life—through God’s love and with God’s help—is the final answer.

Whenever tragedy occurs, our faith, like that of the people at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, commands us to come together for holy conversation that is rooted in prayer and the Holy Scriptures. We are offering four ways to engage in this holy conversation.

  • First, join us Sunday at 9:30 a.m. In the Parish Hall to reflect together on the tragedy in Charleston.  How does our faith affect our response to what happened?  What questions do we offer to God?  What might we do with the strong feelings rising up in response this senseless act of violence has?  This conversation is both the continuation of the conversations we’ve had over the last year about racial reconciliation, and it is the beginning of a new conversation recognizing the deep tear God’s tapestry experienced on Wednesday night in Charleston.
  • Second, you can join the wider Charlotte community for a conversation on Monday evening in Queen’s University Chapel. This conversation will be facilitated by MeckMin; details on the time will be shared as soon as they are available.
  • Third, fellow clergy, lay leaders, and I will host a time of worship, prayer, and conversation on Thursday, June 25 at 5:30 p.m. in the sacred space, the nave at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church. Open to parishioners and non-parishioners of all ages and sweep of feelings about what has occurred in Charleston and the current state of racism, we will offer The Great Litany, read from and reflect on Scripture, share feelings, and consider small and big actions that might be best for us—individually and collectively. So that we can plan appropriately, please let us know you’re coming at
  • And fourth, talking about such violence can be hard for everyone, especially in families with children.  We’ve made available a resource that provides thoughtful, faithful guidance for parents and educators about how to talk with our children. It is available here.

At the writing of this message, my wife Ellie and I are on vacation until early next week. We will miss gathering around God’s Table with you for the Holy Eucharist on Sunday, June 21.

On God’s new day, I hold you and yours in prayer and give thanks for our life together as people of faith who make their spiritual and sacramental home at the corner of North Tryon at West Seventh streets in Center City Charlotte.

God’s peace to you, blessings, and prayers unceasing. Faithfully, I am…

The Reverend Ollie V. Rencher, Rector

St. Peter’s Parish Vision is to become a community of bold followers of Jesus, a crowd that effects good change for the world, a place known for radical love and welcome, and a beacon of hope in Center City Charlotte.