Over the past two years the BMPC Anti-Racism Taskforce has helped facilitate numerous conversations on the pervasive issue of racism in our history, our community and in our personal lives. We are deeply grateful for the engagement on this issue by members of our congregation.
During its meeting in July, the BMPC Session endorsed a call to deeper study on issues of racism and a broadening of the conversation within the congregation on what it means to be actively anti-racist in the world and in the church.
Essential to this work is being engaged in this difficult conversation in our greater community outside the walls of the church. For years now, this has meant sharing in conversations and public witness with our faith partners across Lower Merion on issues of racism, economic disparity, and equity in access to education.
Most troubling this summer have been a deluge of stories shared by young people in the larger Main Line community of how they have experienced racism in both public and private schools. This issue has been deeply troubling to families within our congregation who are looking to us as a community of faith to partner with and support them in raising their children to be anti-racist and to be a voice for change and justice in their school communities.
The faith communities of Lower Merion also have come together in support of the work that each of our congregations have been doing to share a message of anti-racism. During the past month our partner congregation, St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Ardmore (home of the Ardmore Food Pantry) has had their property defaced multiple times, including the destruction and eventual theft of a Black Lives Matter sign on their lawn. In response to that attack, numerous congregations in Lower Merion, including ours, have committed to displaying a similar sign, which also includes a message of solidarity on this issue among the interfaith congregations of Lower Merion. While you will see our sign out this week, you will begin to see these signs at multiple locations in our community over the next couple of weeks.
The phrase Black Lives Matter has come to represent different things in this moment: Yes, it is connected to a broadly decentralized movement of anti-racism activists who are calling our society and culture to speak out against the pervasiveness of racism and white supremacy ingrained in our world.
But Black Lives Matter also is a theological and biblical statement: Our choice to align ourselves with love and not hate requires both a rejection of racism and a positive proclamation that Jesus Christ consistently aligned himself with the most marginalized. The enduring claim of the Gospel calls for justice for those who have been and continue to be impacted and injured by the unjust structures of racism and oppression.
While recognizing that racism victimizes many different racial ethnic groups, we acknowledge its unique impact on the African American community. Given the particular forms that anti-black racism have taken in the United States of America both historically (including slavery and Jim Crow) and today (including mass incarceration, disproportionate policing, economic inequality, and continuing acts of racially-oriented violence and hate), we state clearly: Black Lives Matter to God and to us.
Over the next weeks, months and years, the Session and other groups within our congregation will deepen their study and conversations on these issues, with the intention that it will impact how we understand and carry out the ministry of Jesus Christ as an organization and a leader in the community. All members of the congregation also are invited to commit to this work together, and a variety of opportunities to commit and engage will be available soon.
The BMPC Anti-Racism Taskforce
Anna May Charrington
Mary Beth Pratt