My friend and pastor The Rev. Mike Kinman, Dean of Christ Church Cathedral in Saint Louis, posted this to Cathedral congregants earlier today.
The past 48 hours since the shooting death of Michael Brown have been a wrenching time for the St. Louis region. It has revealed wounds that have been deepening for a long time. Those wounds have exploded in anger, and the pictures have been broadcast for the whole nation to see.
The violence both of Michael Brown’s death and of the looting and rioting last night in Ferguson are cause for mourning. But they are also like the shooting pain in our gut that alerts us that something is seriously wrong in our body. They are a call for attention. A call for us not to just treat the symptom and to re-establish a fragile and festering peace, but to address the underlying causes. The causes of the anger cut right to some of the most painful divisions in our region — divisions of race and class, of power and privilege.
The causes and problems are complex and there are no quick fixes. But that is also not code for “there is nothing we can do.” The events of the past two days can be redeemed only if they cause us — ALL of us — to focus sustained attention on the healing that is needed in our body, healing that can only happen as we all confront difficult truths of how far we still have to go toward justice in our society.
Yesterday, we took a first step — in the language of Sunday’s Gospel, we put a toe out of the boat onto the stormy sea. Several of us from the Cathedral gathered with clergy and others in a prayer vigil at the Ferguson Police Department. But for that to be a first step, there has to be a second step and a third … and whether or not you were with us yesterday, you can take those steps, too.
If you are looking at the paper and your TV screen wondering “what can be done?” … here are some ideas:
Pray — Prayer is our first resort and our last resort. Prayer is not passing the buck to God saying “Lord, do something.” Prayer is opening ourselves up to God and saying “Lord, do something through me.” Pray for peace. Pray for your own heart and the heart of our Cathedral community to be moved and guided. Pray for the people of Ferguson and the whole region, for the Brown family, for the police, for Ferguson Mayor James Knowles and for the media who are telling the story. Pray for peace and courage and wisdom. Pray that God will use us as instruments of reconciliation … realizing that we are asking God to put us on a risky road ourselves.
Come Together — At 7 pm Tuesday at Christ the King United Church of Christ (11370 Old Halls Ferry Road), faith leaders from around our region will be holding a strategy meeting to determine our next steps moving forward together. Everyone is welcome and encouraged to attend. I will be there to listen first and then ask what I can do to help. I hope you can be there, too.
Have an Inquiring and Discerning Heart — That phrase is from our baptismal service. Having an inquiring and discerning heart means not just taking things on face value. It means asking, “why?” and not jumping to our immediate assumptions and prejudices. When you see a picture of someone looting a Quik Trip, ask yourself “Why?” and don’t be satisfied with your first response. When you hear the story of the police officer confronting Michael Brown, ask yourself “Why?” and don’t be satisfied with what immediately comes to mind. The media will usually feed us the story on the simplest terms — but we are not simple people. Don’t be afraid of the complexity that is beneath the surface. Search for it. Demand it. Strive to embrace it.
Above all, do not despair and do not run away. That is not who we are as people of Christ. Pray, listen, talk, ask questions, envision what changes you can make in your life to bring us together across the lines that divide us. Know that as we venture out of the boat onto this stormy sea that Jesus is there already waiting for us to join him.
in Christ’s love,
The Very Rev. Michael Kinman
Dean, Christ Church Cathedral