On Sunday, Dec. 14, BCMC folks were invited to wear black to worship, in solidarity with the message that “Black Lives Matter” and as a witness for racial justice in our country, in light of recent deaths of black men and youth at the hands of police. This request came from the ecumenical association Christian Churches Together, forwarded to us from our own denomination, Mennonite Church USA, which is a member of CCT. (For more information, see http://www.mennoniteusa.org/christian-churches-together-not-a-time-to-be-silent/ and http://christianchurchestogether.org/ ) That Sunday morning, I was moved when I looked out across the gathered congregation and saw a sea of (mostly) black. I also want to assure those who chose not to wear black, or who were simply not aware of the invitation to do so, that their presence was also valued! Likewise, I value the variety of responses, questions and perspectives that this experience raised. One person told me that she was grateful for this simple yet significant opportunity to respond to current events in our nation. Some choir members raised the question of whether to replace their robes with “concert black,” pointing toward the fact that there can be a variety of reasons people may dress in black, and context matters. Someone else raised concern that public actions such as this can be reactive or simplistic, vulnerable to misinterpretation, or ignorant of other perspectives. If we say that “Black Lives Matter,” don’t all lives matter? Yes, of course. All lives matter. All life is sacred. All persons are children of God. Yet our society historically has not treated all lives with equal dignity, respect, and opportunity. Systemic oppression, racism, prejudice and profiling has devalued the lives of people of color, and privileged the lives of people with white skin. So, to say that “Black Lives Matter” is to protest these disparate realities and to stand with those who have suffered as a result. To say that “Black Lives Matter” is essentially to say that “All Lives Matter.” To wear black on Sunday was to follow the lead of the Black church community in this matter, rather than to presume that the definition of reality from the perspective of white people is the most valid definition. I hope that the experience of wearing black raises awareness, questions, conversation, deeper understanding, and ongoing efforts to seek God’s shalom for all people.
– Heidi Regier Kreider
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