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June 8, 2020

Dear Wayne

BLACK LIVES MATTER! YES, BLACK LIVES MATTER!

I have been watching, listening, talking, reflecting and then watching, listening, talking and reflecting some more. All the while doing so with a broken heart and a bruised spirit for yet another family shattered by the violent death of a loved one because of anti-black racism, by privilege weaponised. As a white woman of faith, I have listened to protesters, world leaders, colleagues and friends all the while asking what must be done now and what must I do now to end racism.

When I heard President Obama speak, a biblical passage sprang to mind. The context in the biblical story is, on the night Jesus was betrayed he was praying in the garden of Gethsemane and he had asked his friends to stay with him. ‘Then he came to the disciples and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, “So, could you not stay awake with me one hour?”’ (Matt. 26:40)

Everyone who is “awake” knows that anti-black racism is real not just in the USA but all around the world. Anti-black racism is real in Canada and in the Church, in our Church.

People of faith including us in the Pacific Mountain Regional Council sit in the garden of crisis and terror and we must no longer fall back asleep immobilized while the Christ calls us to stay awake and be alert to what is happening and what needs to happen.

President Obama said, “It’s a time to be awakened”. And then he added, speaking to people of colour, “You have communicated a sense of urgency…We have to both highlight a problem and make people in power uncomfortable but we also have to translate that into practical solutions and laws that can be implemented and we can monitor and make sure we’re following up on it… It’s very important for us to take this momentum that has been created as a society and as a country and say let’s use this to finally make an impact.”

It is long past time for us, especially white people of faith, to wake up. It is not enough to sit immobilized in the garden of fear because we are overwhelmed by what needs to be done. Some say, this is more than we can handle. Some say, what about all this other work we are supposed to be doing? This is not about lifting up one group of people and excluding others. It is about working at this time towards a deeper understanding of the power dynamics at work in society that make black people the targets of degradation and violence and then to dismantle those powers. It is time for us to be alert to the power dynamics at play in our Church and to redirect them toward equity and human dignity.

To do this work will be really hard. The call from the garden is not just one more thing to add to the list of righteous things to do. It is a call to be awake to what must be done and then to do it. It is a call to be the people of God especially in complex times of crisis.

”He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.” Mark 8:34-35

It is time that we the Church bear witness to the truth that BLACK LIVES MATTER.
It is our work and it is time. God help us.

The Rev. Jay Olson, President