Parishioner Chris Mitchell once said to me that institutions at their best “set expectations and guide behavior.” He went on to say that the Church is the one institution that values the whole person and takes the human condition seriously. I am grateful to belong to the Episcopal Church for holding, as it does, to the belief that God has in mind a better world for all of God’s people.
As members of St. Barnabas, I believe that we are called to love and value our fellow human beings and resist sinful patterns of behavior that get in the way of God’s desire for human flourishing. Given that this is Black History Month, I am reminded of The Statement on Racial Justice that the Vestry put together in 2020 as a starting point to redefine our church’s relationship to racism and help our local community do the same. Here is an extract from that statement:
It is in this spirit by which we, as a vestry, pledge to do the work that we need to do to become an anti-racist congregation. We commit to starting this work by:
- Sponsoring the first “Juneteenth” rally in Irvington to promote inclusion and highlight its significance;
- Providing our parishioners with the opportunity to participate in small groups to discuss works by diverse authors and/or dealing with racial justice issues;
- Inviting those of us who are white to examine our privilege and the reality of racism;
- Providing our members with programs about anti-racism, unconscious bias, and cultural awareness;
- Examining the structures, norms, and habits in our parish and community that discourage full participation by all;
- Highlighting and supporting the efforts of Rivertowns Episcopal Parishes Action on Inclusion and Race (REPAIR); and,
- Encouraging all our members to engage more, listen more, share their stories, and become more informed about the experiences of people of all races, and in so doing become better equipped to take action in the face of racial injustice.
We strive to welcome everyone into our community on their own terms, embracing and celebrating our differences. And we commit to becoming a beacon of hope for those in our society who are harmed by racist acts and actions.
This year’s Black History Month is, “Celebrating Black Health and Wellness” as a way of highlighting contributions of Black healthcare professionals to the well-being of our nation, particularly during the pandemic; as well as promoting the physical, emotional, and mental health of Black Americans given the ongoing health care disparities that exist between White and Black people in our country. May we, as Christians, do all that we can to affirm the dignity of every human being made deep in the image of God and be the beacons of hope Christ calls us to be in the world.
Onward in God’s Spirit,
Reminder: Click HERE to purchase the hymnal Lift Every Voice and Sing for use at the church.
Gareth Evans serves as the rector of St. Barnabas. He is an inspirational leader who brings significant pastoral experience, a depth of reverence in worship, and a relatable preaching style.