Below is the content of a text I wrote this morning in reply to some friends back home who have been in touch having watched UK/Ireland new reports on the chaos that is playing out in the United States.
It has been slightly edited for the purpose of publishing here
This is shared with permission of the friends I mention by name.
I’ll not lie to you lads, I am hurting deeply today.
I am a little afraid, too, with everything that is going on here, and I don’t think it is completely outside the realms of possibility that this shit could get out of hand very quickly.
I held a vigil of lament, solidarity, and hope on our church steps on Sunday night. It was a good time. And it was good for the predominantly white, middle class people of my church (which very much includes me) to be a part of. It felt righteous and appropriate, but, honestly, aside of creating a space for people to be together I am not sure that it will have made much of a difference at all.
I could be wrong. Prayer works in ways I can’t fathom. I get that and believe it.
Last night I went with my daughter to an ad hoc demonstration/protest that had been arranged on snapchat among her High School peers. To be honest, we did not want her to go along. We did not know who was organizing it, or what the aim or objective was. But as I thought about who I want her to be and how i want her to have a voice in the world, I understood that I should let her speak in this way. So Marge and I said she could go but that we would be there too. I put on my clerical collar and my #loveshowsup church t-shirt and we accompanied her.
The whole things was terribly organized. We got to where we thought we were supposed to be and there were only about four other people standing around. Then we realized that we all had got the meeting point wrong, so we walked to find the others. When we found them there were about 15-20 more who had gathered already. Then about 20 more arrived about 20 minutes later. Very late.
Typical kids. But I digress…
I stood back a little from them with Chef Mike. Mike runs the local High School Culinary program that caters our Wednesday Night Community dinners at church. His daughter and mine are class mates. Together, we were keeping an eye on things, looking out for the safety of our girls, and we chatted as the other kids gathered. We actually didn’t know if they would ever move from their meeting point and begin their march.
But then they did.
About 50-60 young people with placards in hand walked all the way along the main thoroughfare in our wee town chanting things like “Black Lives Matter”, “Silence is Violence”, “Say His Name: GEORGE FLOYD!” or “Say her name: BREONA TAYLOR!”, “I Can’t Breathe”, and “Hands up! Don’t shoot!”
They chanted together at the tops of their voices every step of the way along the five mile walk they completed.
I walked alongside them more or less every step of the way.
Catching myself on.
Beaming with pride that my daughter wanted and needed to be part of this.
It was holy.
And then this morning Chef Mike called me out of the blue.
“Can I come see you?” He asked.
“Of course!” I replied.
He walked into my office with tears in his eyes and he opened his arms and hugged me…hugged me tight. For the next thirty minutes we talked about our experience of the night before, and how powerful and moving it had been. It literally emptied Mike in a way he had not expected – emotionally, physically, mentally. He just needed to talk. So did I.
That was holy too.
The holiness is in the chaos.
All this stuff is so very raw. It is making me dig deep and recognize the ugliness that continues to reside in me in the form of my privilege in this world.
The inner work of it all is hard.
But it is holy.
I think we need to look out for the holy in all this.
Afterword: One thing I failed to mention to my friends in the original message was to give credit and high praise to our local Police Department for the way they handled 60 young people marching down the main road of our town. They were excellent and I am grateful for the way they carry out their work in our local community.