Why black lives matter by Rick Rouse

Now I lay me … for Breonna Taylor
Now I lay me down to sleep,whispering —
Breonna Taylor did this.
And I pray, like so many childrenbefore me
my soul to keep, my soul to keep,and my dreams, my hopes for tomorrow,
the beauties of another morning.
But none of us really expect to die before we wake,
none of us really expectto be killed by another human being
in our beds,
none of us really expect
to be killed by another human being
who is not held to account in that death.
I believe that God has taken and holds so tenderly her very soul,
and calls out the soul-lessness
of our times,
walks with the protestors,
kneels by the fallen,
waits with the arrested,
says her name again and again.
And now we lay ourselves down
in a great insomnia of sorrow.
(thank you for this prayer, Maren Tirabassi! Gifts in Open Hands)

Grateful for John Lewis
Here was a man who knew
what inaugurations he should not attend,
whose skull was cracked in Selma,
and who baptized the chickens
when he was a child.

Here was a man who was called
“the conscience of the Congress”
and staged a gun control sit-in
on Capitol steps
after the Orlando Pulse shooting,
at an age when most folks
cannot stand up
from sitting on concrete.

Here was the man with blunt speech
at the March on Washington,
memorable, long ago,
but also ongoing, ongoing, ongoing
unfailing care
for his Congressional District,
and new messages now,
even when, struggling with cancer,
which can turn folk inward,
he spoke new words
with his old courage.

We grieve him, remember him,
honor him – not just
for the Selma in his past,
but for the Black Lives Matter
he puts in us today.
(Source: Maren C.Tirabassi, Gifts in Open Hands)

“Do not get lost in a sea of despair. Be hopeful, be optimistic. Our struggle is not the struggle of a day, a week, a month, or a year, it is the struggle of a lifetime. Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble.” Rep John Lewis

Congressman John Lewis presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom (2011).
He was also awarded Philadelphia’s Liberty Medal for his dedication to civil rights.
He said, “It is my philosophy, very simple, if you see something that is not right, not fair, not just, you have a moral obligation to do something.”
Service of Lament – Pilgrim Uniting Church: Black Lives Matter

In Australia we concluded Reconciliation Week on June 3rd. We have witnessed what has been happening in the USA and many other places in the world with the horrifying treatment of George Floyd at the hands of 4 police officers – 3 who stood by while another kept his knee on Mr Floyd’s neck for more than 8 minutes, leading to his death. As followers of the Way of Jesus we are compelled to stand alongside our brothers and sisters to demand change, and to demand justice.
(For #45 to hold a Bible aloft outside a church – as if God is on his side, is an appalling misrepresentation of the Christian gospel).
“The call for lament echoes throughout scripture. There is a power in naming our griefs. It changes us because it is a form of resistance. Rev. Casey T. Sigmon: “Lament promotes the sacredness of all life by protesting and naming all losses that prevent the flourishing of life.”
(Quote from ‘The Many’)

Racial reconciliation resources on Godspacelight

Here Lies Love: A Litany for a Community Encircling the Grave of Someone Whose Life Was Tragically Lost by Osheta Moore
Jesus, you can empathize with us as we grieve. You, Lord, have sat with the trauma of loss. You know the anger, sadness, and confusion that comes when death visits your loved ones. You know because you wept for the loss of your friend. Weep with us today, Lord. We trust in you to meet us in this space. Remind us that we are not alone.
Come, Lord Jesus, bring us comfort.
Lord, teach us the power of lament, and give us courage to weep with those who weep. Surround us and those who have been shaken by trag- edy with love and community. Give us new resolve to love ourselves and others fully.
Come, Lord Jesus, bring us connection where this death has brought senselessness.
We do not want to be lost in this grief and overwhelmed by the depths of our despair. We want to hear you calling us to a place of rest. Help us, Jesus, to nestle into the safety of your wings.
Give us ears to hear you whisper “I am here” to our broken hearts.
Jesus, our minds swirl with memories of our loved one. We cannot forget their laughter and their vitality. We cannot imagine life without them. We are stunned by the vulnerability of the body, the brevity of our time together.
Come, Lord Jesus, bring us comfort. We trust you to work all things together for our good.
Jesus, our Prince of Peace, true source of wholeness, true bringer of Shalom. Our world is violent, and violence delights in inflicting wounds of suffering and grief. In spite of this, you have called us to be peacemak- ers. With wounded hearts, you welcome us into your work of binding the wounds of this world.
Wounded Healer, we choose to partner with you. Help us to be the community we need. Show us how to bear one another’s burdens.
Jesus, our humble King, you are victorious over sin and death. For the joy of true connection with those whom you love and for the joy of reconciliation, you endured the cross. You faced death head on, and you won. Love prevailed, bringing joy from despair.
Come, Lord Jesus, and bring us victory over death. It will not overcome us because you have reclaimed the grave for life.
Show us how to take up our crosses. In surrendering our pain to you so that you can truly connect with us. In not ignoring the depth of our suf- fering so that your Spirit may guide us back to healing. In resisting hatred, revenge, and division by seeking reconciliation.
We commit ourselves to you.
Let us join you in conquering death and all its effects. May we, in the wake of this tragedy, remember the presence of our empathic Priest, the healing love of our Prince of Peace, and the unmatched victory of our humble King.
(Source: one contribution to a new book, Rally: Communal Prayers for Lovers of Jesus and Justice by Britney Winn Lee at UpperRoomBooks.com and also Book Depository)

Hymn: “There is a time for silence”
This hymn-prayer, finished on Tuesday 2nd June, may be helpful for churches that are seeking to be strong white allies to support people of color now and for the long term.
Tune: ST. CHRISTOPHER (“Beneath the Cross of Jesus”)

There is a time for silence, a time to listen well,
a time to hear the painful stories others have to tell.
O God, may we who love to talk now hear the rage and fear,
and may we learn from neighbors who have long been silenced here.

There is a time for asking, a time to pause and pray,
there is a time to hear the prophets speak of God’s new day,
to hear the words of Jesus who taught welcome, truth and love,
to hear the Spirit speaking through the ones who shout, “Enough!”

There’s time for humble study – for reading and for thought.
God, may we learn from others of the justice they have sought,
And may we learn from those who bravely stand against the hate,
So when we’re called to justice, we, your church, won’t hesitate.

There’s time for good reflection, to ponder who we’ve been,
to think how our own attitudes have paved the way for sin,
to listen to the ones we fear – to folks we may resent –
to hear of Jesus’ call to love – and humbly to repent.

And there’s a time to work now – to boldly say their names,
to protest and to organize, to advocate for change,
to use our voices and to stand with those who are oppressed.
As we seek justice, hand in hand, Lord, may your world be blessed.

Biblical texts: Ecclesiastes 3:7: “There is a time to keep silence, and a time to speak…”;Isaiah 58: Luke 10:25-37
Tune: Frederick Charles Maker, 1881 (“Beneath the Cross of Jesus”)
Text: Copyright © 2020 by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette. All rights reserved.
Email: carolynshymns@gmail.com New Hymns: www.carolynshymns.com

A Brief Statement of Faith” of the Presbyterian Church (USA):
“…the Spirit gives us courage, to pray without ceasing, to witness among all peoples to Christ as Lord and Savior, to unmask idolatries in Church and culture, to hear the voices of peoples long silenced, and to work with others for justice, freedom, and peace.”

Black Lives Matter
Your love encompasses all people. 
To you all lives matter,
For all life matters,
And the way that we live life matters,
But at this time,
When the light of truth shines on particular injustice, 
And draws our attention to the inequity of racial prejudice and discrimination, 
We unite in solidarity to declare that black lives matter.
We proclaim this not at the exclusion of the lives or value of other groups of people, 
But, because we seek to address this serious and unresolved issue, 
Which is one of the many problems in society,
We intentionally single out those who have faced and continue to face the effects of entrenched and longstanding racism. 
We acknowledge hurt 
We understand anger.
We feel frustration.
We grieve for the loss and suffering.
We stand alongside.
We kneel in solidarity .
We reject violence.
We reject persecution.
We reject empty words and promises.
In this time of trouble, 
We call for peace,
But we call for change.
We call for justice, not revenge.
We call for action and transformation,
Of attitudes and behaviour,
And strategies which seek to address the core of the problem, 
Rather than Band Aid fixes to placate the crowd.
In this we need your help and guidance
For, in our flawed humanity, there is some hope, 
But equal failure,
So, only in your wisdom will we find a way forward. 
As Christ, you lived compassion and taught is the way. 
As Spirit, you work for reconciliation and healing.
Be with us now, 
And with all people. 
Soften hearts that are hard. 
Strengthen wills that are weak. 
Change minds that are set 
Reshape anger into positive action, 
That we might end racial injustice,
And in doing so, create space to address other issues. 
This we kneel to pray.
(Source: Jon Humphries, June 2020)

Good and gracious God,
Who loves and delights in all people,
we stand in awe before You,
knowing that the spark of life within each person on earth
is the spark of your divine life.
Differences among cultures and races are multicolored manifestations
of Your Light.
May our hearts and minds be open to celebrate similarities and differences among our sisters and brothers.
We place our hopes for racial harmony in our committed action
and in your Presence in our neighbor.
May all peoples live in Peace.

“I used the phrase ‘Black Lives Matter’ in a social media post earlier this week. As happens each time I use the phrase, someone asks, ‘Why not just say “all lives matter?”’ Here is my quick response: When one of my four kids got hurt, it didn’t seem to make sense to say to them, ‘All my kids matter.’ In that moment, I embraced them and said, ‘You matter. Your pain matters. Your healing and return to health matters.’ That doesn’t diminish my love for my other kids. It expands my capacity to love as I live with another person’s pain. 
Jesus did the same thing in his ministry. He didn’t say, ‘all people matter.’ He went to those who were hurting, who’d been denied a place at the table, who had been cast out of community and said ‘You Matter.’ Samaritans matter. Women matter. Tax collectors matter. Lepers matter. Did that mean he loved other people less? By no means. His life and ministry expanded the vision and capacity of his followers to love as they broke down the religious and cultural walls that had long divided people.”
(Source: Kai Nilsen, circulating on Facebook)

George Floyd mural

A boot is crushing the neck of American democracy by Cornel West

A statement from the Black Clergy Caucus in the U.S.

I have often wondered
why Jesus authorized
the inclusion of the temptation story
into the gospels,
and concluded 
that it was to demonstrate for us
down these long ages
that the devil can quote scripture,
or, if too unfamiliar 
with an appropriate passage,
simply shake the book.
(Source: Maren Tirabassi, Gifts in Open Hands, June 2020)

Actually, 432 since 1991 Royal Commission into Black Deaths in Custody report

Australia – Black Deaths in Custody
‘Deaths in our backyard’: 432 Indigenous Australians have died in custody since 1991
26-year-old David Dungay, a Dunghutti man said “I can’t breathe” 12 times while being restrained by five prison guards before losing consciousness and dying. Dungay is one of at least 432 Aboriginal deaths in custody since the royal commission in 1991. There have been at least five deaths since Guardian Australia updated its Deaths Inside project in August 2019, two of which have resulted in murder charges being laid.
‘I can’t breathe’ – Indigenous rallies
More information and links here.
Deaths inside: Indigenous Australian deaths in custody

Aboriginal people make up 2% of the Australian population and make up 28% of the population in prison.

The plight of black people in America is heartbreaking. But what do you expect? The violence perpetrated against black people is written into the very “soul” of the nation.
America, as a project, was born in blood.
It’s land was stolen from First Peoples through lies, murder, and genocide. This land has subsequently been scarred by the scourge of white settlement. All Second Peoples in America live on land that was stolen.
All of this was done according to the Doctrine of Discovery and its predecessors, those unholy and racist theological and Eurocentric notions that European kings had the right to “discover,” claim, and exploit unchristianised lands.
In America, whites enslaved blacks, and reparations have never been seriously considered by America’s leaders.
And all the while, Christianity in America largely played a supporting role in these crimes, a midwife to the violence.
Even now, America imprisons its black community at a statistically staggering, inhumane rate. It also sees the regular murder of its black citizens while they’re in police custody.
Meanwhile America’s leader brandishes the Bible and Christian faith, despite its actual content, and in doing so continues to assure the complicity of many Christians. But it’s okay because they don’t see colour.
America is violent down to its soul, and it needs more than a good leader or election outcome; America needs deep psychological and spiritual treatment, and this can’t be applied by white physicians.
Oops, sorry, did I say America? I meant Australia. I’m talking about Australia. Damn spellcheck.
(Source: Mitchell Eastment)

Responses in the U.S to George Floyd death
“Holding up a Bible after teargassing people is using religion for political purposes. Holding open the door of one’s home to people who were teargassed is practicing religion as the Bible teaches. It is pretty simple really”. (Diana Butler Bass)
As an Episcopalian, I utterly disavow this use of my church as a racist prop.
As a Christian, I utterly disavow this use of scripture as a racist prop.
As a person of faith, I utterly disavow this use of God as a racist prop.
As a human being, I vow to work for love & justice for all people.
(Diana Butler Bass)
We are seeing now in the cities of America the kind of violence that comes after justice is denied, and after oppression has lived in a land and amongst a people for far too long. What you see on American streets now is a cry from the oppressed. It’s a cry from those who have been left out and looked over far too long.
This is not a moment, it is a movement.

An excellent statement from George W Bush
Laura and I are anguished by the brutal suffocation of George Floyd and disturbed by the injustice and fear that suffocate our country. Yet we have resisted the urge to speak out, because this is not the time for us to lecture. It is time for us to listen. It is time for America to examine our tragic failures – and as we do, we will also see some of our redeeming strengths.
It remains a shocking failure that many African Americans, especially young African American men, are harassed and threatened in their own country. It is a strength when protesters, protected by responsible law enforcement, march for a better future. This tragedy – in a long series of similar tragedies – raises a long overdue question: How do we end systemic racism in our society? The only way to see ourselves in a true light is to listen to the voices of so many who are hurting and grieving. Those who set out to silence those voices do not understand the meaning of America – or how it becomes a better place.
America’s greatest challenge has long been to unite people of very different backgrounds into a single nation of justice and opportunity. The doctrine and habits of racial superiority, which once nearly split our country, still threaten our Union. The answers to American problems are found by living up to American ideals – to the fundamental truth that all human beings are created equal and endowed by God withcertain rights. We have often underestimated how radical that quest really is, and how our cherished principles challenge systems of intended or assumed injustice. The heroes of America – from Frederick Douglass, to Harriet Tubman, to Abraham Lincoln, to Martin Luther King, Jr. – are heroes of unity. Their calling has never been for the fainthearted. They often revealed the nation’s disturbing bigotry and exploitation – stains on our character sometimes difficult for the American majority to examine. We can only see the reality of America’s need by seeing it through the eyes of the threatened, oppressed, and disenfranchised.
That is exactly where we now stand. Many doubt the justice of our country, and with good reason. Black people see the repeated violation of their rights without an urgent and adequate response from American institutions. We know that lasting justice will only come by peaceful means. Looting is not liberation, and destruction is not progress. But we also know that lasting peace in our communities requires truly equal justice. The rule of law ultimately depends on the fairness and legitimacy of the legal system. And achieving justice for all is the duty of all.
This will require a consistent, courageous, and creative effort. We serve our neighbors best when we try to understand their experience. We love our neighbors as ourselves when we treat them as equals, in both protection and compassion. There is a better way – the way of empathy, and shared commitment, and bold action, and a peace rooted in justice. I am confident that together, Americans will choose the better way.

Church leaders in the U.S.
Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington said Monday she is “outraged” after President Donald Trump’s visit to her church without advance notice to share “a message antithetical to the teachings of Jesus.” Her pointed comments came after the President walked from the White House to the house of worship used by American presidents for more than a century. Peaceful protesters just outside the White House gates were dispersed with tear gas, flash grenades and rubber bullets. It was all, apparently, so Trump could visit the church.
“I am outraged. The President did not pray when he came to St. John’s, nor as you just articulated, did he acknowledge the agony of our country right now,” Budde said. “And in particular, that of the people of color in our nation, who wonder if anyone ever – anyone in public power will ever acknowledge their sacred words. And who are rightfully demanding an end to 400 years of systemic racism and white supremacy in our country. And I just want the world to know, that we in the diocese of Washington, following Jesus and his way of love … we distance ourselves from the incendiary language of this President. We follow someone who lived a life of nonviolence and sacrificial love.”
“We align ourselves with those seeking justice for the death of George Floyd and countless others,” she continued. “And I just can’t believe what my eyes have seen.”
Beyond using the church as a backdrop, Budde criticized Trump’s use of a Bible during the visit, which he held up as he posed for cameras. “Let me be clear: The President just used a Bible, the most sacred text of the Judeo-Christian tradition, and one of the churches of my diocese, without permission, as a backdrop for a message antithetical to the teachings of Jesus”.
Asked by CNN’s John Berman on “New Day” Tuesday if the President is a frequent visitor to the church, Budde said “no, he’s not,” adding, “He is not a man of prayer on Sunday morning. We know that. And he is not one to worship at St. John’s regularly or any of the churches of our diocese. This was a charade that in some ways was meant to bolster a message that does nothing to calm – to calm the soul and to reassure the nation that we can recover from this moment which is what we need from a President, and that’s what the faith communities stand for.”
“What I am here to talk about is the abuse of sacred symbols for the people of faith in this country to justify language, rhetoric, an approach to this crisis that is antithetical to everything we stand for.”
The Episcopal Church has repeatedly refuted Trump on a range of issues including proposed cuts to social services and the construction of a wall on the US southern border.
Michael Curry, the presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, said in a statement Monday that Trump had “used a church building and the Holy Bible for partisan purposes. This was done in a time of deep hurt and pain in our country, and his action did nothing to help us or heal us,” Curry said.
And Greg Brewer, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Central Florida, tweeted that he was “shaken watching protestors in Lafayette Park gassed and cleared so that the President of the United States can do a photo op in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church holding a Bible. This is blasphemy in real time’.

Rev Gini Gerbasi, Episcopal Minister, St John’s Church (driven out of her own church for a photo op)
Friends, I am ok, but I am, frankly shaken. I was at St. John’s, Lafayette Square most of the afternoon, with fellow clergy and laypeople – and clergy from some other denominations too. We were passing out water and snacks, and helping the patio area at St. John’s, Lafayette square to be a place of respite and peace. All was well – with a few little tense moments – until about 6:15 or so. By then, I had connected with the Black Lives Matter medic team, which was headed by an EMT. Those people were AMAZING. They had been on the patio all day, and thankfully had not had to use much of the eyewash they had made. Around 6:15 or 6:30, the police started really pushing protestors off of H Street (the street between the church and Lafayette Park, and ultimately, the White House. They started using tear gas and folks were running at us for eyewashes or water or wet paper towels. At this point, Julia, one of our seminarians for next year (who is a trauma nurse) and I looked at each other in disbelief. I was coughing, her eyes were watering, and we were trying to help people as the police – in full riot gear – drove people toward us. Julia and her classmates left and I stayed with the BLM folks trying to help people. Suddenly, around 6:30, there was more tear gas, more concussion grenades, and I think I saw someone hit by a rubber bullet – he was grasping his stomach and there was a mark on his shirt. The police in their riot gear were literally walking onto the St. John’s, Lafayette Square patio with these metal shields, pushing people off the patio and driving them back. People were running at us as the police advanced toward us from the other side of the patio. We had to try to pick up what we could. The BLM medic folks were obviously well practiced. They picked up boxes and ran. I was so stunned I only got a few water bottles and my spray bottle of eyewash. We were literally DRIVEN OFF of the St. John’s, Lafayette Square patio with tear gas and concussion grenades and police in full riot gear. We were pushed back 20 feet, and then eventually – with SO MANY concussion grenades – back to K street. By the time I got back to my car, around 7, I was getting texts from people saying that Trump was outside of St. John’s, Lafayette Square. I literally COULD NOT believe it. WE WERE DRIVEN OFF OF THE PATIO AT ST. JOHN’S – a place of peace and respite and medical care throughout the day – SO THAT MAN COULD HAVE A PHOTO OPPORTUNITY IN FRONT OF THE CHURCH!!! PEOPLE WERE HURT SO THAT HE COULD POSE IN FRONT OF THE CHURCH WITH A BIBLE! HE WOULD HAVE HAD TO STEP OVER THE MEDICAL SUPPLIES WE LEFT BEHIND BECAUSE WE WERE BEING TEAR GASSED!!!!
I am deeply shaken. I did not see any protestors throw anything until the tear gas and concussion grenades started, and then it was mostly water bottles. I am shaken, not so much by the taste of tear gas and the bit of a cough I still have, but by the fact that that show of force was for a PHOTO OPPORTUNITY. The patio of St. John’s, Lafayette square had been HOLY GROUND today. A place of respite and laughter and water and granola bars and fruit snacks. But that man turned it into a BATTLE GROUND first, and a cheap political stunt second. I am DEEPLY OFFENDED on behalf of every protestor, every Christian, the people of St. John’s, Lafayette square, every decent person there, and the BLM medics who stayed with just a single box of supplies and a backpack, even when I got too scared and had to leave. I am ok. But I am now a force to be reckoned with.

George Clooney on George Floyd killing: racism is America’s pandemic
George Clooney has called for a “systematic change” of law enforcement, criminal justice and political leadership in the US, in an essay reacting to the crisis triggered by the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers last week. Writing for the Daily Beast, Clooney said urgent action was required to combat the racism “pandemic” raging in the country.
“There is little doubt that George Floyd was murdered,” wrote Clooney. “We watched as he took his last breath at the hands of four police officers.” He then praised the “defiant reaction” of millions of people around the world who are taking part in the demonstrations.
“We don’t know when these protests will subside. We hope and pray that no one else will be killed. But we also know that very little will change. The anger and the frustration we see playing out once again in our streets is just a reminder of how little we’ve grown as a country from our original sin of slavery. This is our pandemic. It infects all of us, and in 400 years we’ve yet to find a vaccine.” Clooney, 59, ended with a call to the people to remove Donald Trump from office in the forthcoming presidential elections. We need policymakers and politicians that reflect basic fairness to all of their citizens equally. Not leaders that stoke hatred and violence as if the idea of shooting looters could ever be anything less than a racial dog whistle. And there is only one way in this country to bring lasting change: Vote.”

A Prayer for Breonna Taylor)

Sisters of Mercy prayer service for racism

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Rev Sandy Boyce is a Uniting Church in Australia Minister (Deacon). This blog may be a help to people planning worship services.
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