Trinity, Morgantown, June 14, 2020

 ‘When Will it End?’

The lectionary Collect for the Day is timely: “Keep, O Lord, your household the Church in your steadfast faith and love, that through your grace we may proclaim your truth with boldness, and minister your justice with compassion,” It is time to tell the “truth with boldness” and do so with deep conviction and genuine compassion. As Disciples of Christ we are compelled to step out of our religious comfort zones of sanctuary and sanctimony in order to deal with the painful reality of systemic injustice and blatant racism in our midst…wherever we are. This weekend we observed once again raw video footage of still another senseless killing of a black man by a police officer in Atlanta, GA. What’s happening in our nation, and how can it (whatever “it” is) be explained in a rational way? More to the point - when will it end? 

Years ago as rector of another Episcopal Church, I had the privilege to preach at the ordination of a talented black Ohio University professor who had been sponsored by our local parish. I was honored to formally present him for ordination at the hands of one of the first black diocesan bishops in the country. The service (followed by an exquisite repast of soul-food) was held in an urban church in a black section of Cincinnati, OH. It was from there the newly ordained Reverend Edward Payne went on to a challenging ministry using his God-given talents and abilities as a choral director, educator, and opera impresario. We kept in touch; and recently he developed a powerful statement that has been referenced by several bishops, as well as cited by the Union of Black Episcopalians. The essay speaks for itself and bears serious consideration. (see attached)

The Harsh Reality of Racism in America
by The Reverend Edward Thomas Payne

I remember vividly the year 1956 when my family moved from the housing projects to our very first house in Cleveland, Ohio. It was the house of Bishop Edward Thomas Demby, who was Bishop Suffragan of The Episcopal Church. He was my mother’s uncle and my grand uncle.

Bishop Demby was the first Black Episcopal Bishop to be consecrated with jurisdiction in the United States in the year 1918. Interestingly, he was consecrated at All Saints Episcopal Church in Little Rock, Arkansas. As was the racial custom in the south in 1918, he, as the guest of honor, was not able to dine with his invited guests. Instead, Bishop Demby dined in the kitchen with the other colored kitchen workers. Moreover, following his consecration he was given the title of “Bishop for Colored Work,” meaning that he was only allowed to work with colored Episcopalians and Episcopal Churches and their particular issues of concern and ministries.   (Full text continues; attached)

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In light of all that is happening in our country, the Prayerbook Collect for the Oppressed (BCP p.826 #36) has relevance:

Look with pity, O heavenly Father, upon the people in this land who live with injustice, terror, disease, and death as their constant companions. Have mercy upon us. Help us to eliminate our cruelty to these our neighbors. Strengthen those who spend their lives establishing equal protection of the law and equal opportunities for all. And grant that every one of us may enjoy a fair portion of the riches of this land; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.