Tomorrow I’ll attempt to preach good news at this lovely little church. Most of the people in the pews on Sunday morning are African American. It’s a town with a predominately African American community. 72% of the residents of this town are African American. Tomorrow it’ll be me that tries to speak things that I don’t really understand. Me with my with blonde hair and blue eyes will try to offer good news that I don’t really know how to claim. (Don’t even try to tell me I’m not blonde anymore.) Me. I’ll be the one to be the pastor tomorrow morning.
It won’t just be tomorrow morning that I’m there pastor. Earlier this week, I signed a covenant with this lovely little church and the local judicatory of our denomination to offer emergency pastoral care while their pastor is on medical leave. My local judicatory wanted to be very clear that this was emergency care. I am only to offer care in the event of an emergency — which required trying to figure out how to define such a thing. As the covenant reads: emergency pastoral needs shall be understood to include any unforeseen or sudden occurrence, including hospitalization, accidents, trauma and death.
There was nothing foreseen about what happened in Charleston last week. It was a sudden occurrence at Mother Emanuel AME Church.
So, I find myself wondering: How can this not be an emergency too?
I can’t stop thinking about this photo that appeared in my Instagram feed two days ago. Because it’s an emergency to this woman.
I can’t imagine what she’s feeling. I can see her grief and perhaps even the frustration she might be feeling as she clenches her hands. I can see how her head has fallen. I know something about these things from my own grief. I know more about what she might be feeling from my years of being a pastor — but I’ve never known an emergency like this. And IT IS an emergency that we are facing. Not just a time of national lament. But a time when we sound all of the alarms to triage the mess we’ve made. I don’t even know all of the metaphors to use. Because I’m a pastor. I’m not an EMT. I’d be a terrible EMT. I’m a pastor. I don’t have the words but I know we have to do something in this state of emergency. We can’t talk about it anymore. We can’t analyze it. We have to actually do something.
I know I have to do something — as an ally, as someone who believes in a better world, as someone who believes that these are our sisters and brothers that are being killed for no reason whatsoever. I can no longer be silent.
What scares me is that I only have my words.