Oakland church

Archive for Covid 19

“COVID 1619” – Racism, the 400 Year Old Virus

Image by Tumisu from Pixabay

The slow, brutal public execution of George Floyd has ignited international outrage.  White people are becoming more conscious of what black people have known for centuries about the deep, violent, pervasive, structural, systemic racism within this country.  I’ve been wondering, is this movement sustainable, and what can we do to sustain it?

Related to this desire, and as we consider our priorities as a church for this fall,  I would like to share with you this week’s E-Letter reflection from our Conference Minister Diane Weible:   (copied below)

 

Blessings upon your week, Pastor Laurie 

Let’s Talk: About 8 Minutes and 46 Seconds

By Conference Minister Diane Weible

Each morning I spend 8 minutes and 46 seconds in silence. My thoughts go in many directions and over the next many weeks I hope to share some of those reflections here. Today I want to share two things that came up for me and one leads into the other.

I want to ask our churches in this Conference to seriously consider waiting until 2021 to return to their sanctuaries for worship. I am not making this ask just because I believe that the unknowns of COVID-19 makes it unsafe to consider returning too early. I am also not asking this just because it pains me to think that our communities of faith will be divided or members will feel excluded because they cannot safely return yet.

I ask this because I believe making a decision now to not consider returning to our sanctuaries until 2021 will free up precious time for us to focus on the other virus that we are dealing—that we have been dealing with for 400 years—COVID 1619. Instead of spending time every month debating if now is the time and what safety measures still need to be put into place, we can engage in the hard work of addressing white privilege, dismantling white supremacy and racism, working for equity and justice and co-creating the new ministry that God has revealed to us through these months of sheltering in place and the movement for racial justice that has reached all of us in new and profound ways the past couple of weeks.

And that brings me to the other thing that came up for me that I lift up as an example of the kind of work I am doing in my own life so I can better show up with all of you in this sacred work. The other day during my 8 minute and 46 second time of silence, I started thinking about the concept of “whiteness.” When we say someone is black or brown, we are referring to their skin color. Very few of us who check the “white” box on ethnicity forms would call our skin color white.

A couple of years ago I was at the PAAM Convocation and a dear friend said, “Well, peach people like you…” I looked at her for a moment, confused. And, then I burst out laughing. She was right. In the crayon-box of life, my skin is a lot closer to peach color then it will ever be to white.

White is a construct. It was created to define who holds the power and privilege in a dominating society. It was created for bonded labor that came to the United States and had to work to get out of debt. The white construct allowed these labors to feel superior to newly arrived slaves from Africa. The owners were worried about an uprising if the laborers and the slaves, both desperate for basic human rights and dignities joined forces. If bonded laborers received benefits for being “white” they would feel superior to slaves and the owners could better control all of them.

I am white by a definition that was created to protect the wealthy and powerful in a dominating society that holds a single narrative as the only reality that counts. Anything that happens that doesn’t fit with what we expect from that narrative must be discredited, claimed as untrue, not believed. The cost to me as a person who shares many of the aspects of that single narrative is that my authentic and beautiful story and history is not told or shared because the culture I grew up in encouraged me to focus on how similar we are all—how connected we all are. It allowed me to call a story or reality I don’t understand as “weird” or “different.” It taught me that it’s ok to be so absorbed in my own story, my own reality, that I should expect that everyone shares the same reality as I do and if they don’t, the problem must be with their story, not mine.

People who do not share in the single narrative of society have to navigate both their own authentic story with the story that the dominating society has deemed THE narrative. The white construct is as fragile as a house of cards. If we begin to truly listen to someone else’s story and learn the truth and reality of what we have for four hundred years ignored, our house of cards will topple.

My hope and prayer is that this is what is happening today. The house of cards is falling. As people of faith, we have an important role to make sure that happens. We are learning that we are not white. Instead, we are infected with a virus that is not new but is also deadly. As a peach person, I have been infected with the COVID-1619 virus for four hundred years. There is a vaccine, but unfortunately, it takes a lot more work than just getting a shot.

  • It requires one (or many) conversations with a Person of Color to hear their story; to hear of their experiences in our society and world.
    • It requires reading books by Authors of Color. It requires watching movies like “The Hate You Give.”
    • It requires reading about the deaths of Black people for doing things that those of us with privilege take for granted. (https://demcastusa.com/2020/05/29/i-have-privilege-as-a-white-person-because-i-can-do-all-of-these-things-without-thinking-twice/ ).
    • It requires that we read White Fragility, not because we think we already understand privilege and fragility but because there is always something more we need to understand about our privilege and what will be required to dismantle white privilege and white supremacy.
    • It requires that we show up for protests now and we commit to showing up for protests and events that will happen in the future.
    • It requires not just showing up for protests but that we show up in relationships. Silence in the face of bigotry and racism is equally brutal.
    • It requires expanding your circle of relationships beyond those who share the same story or skin color. Who are your neighbors? Who are the people you call friends and why? Do you know their story? How has their story shaped your view of the world?

The time is now. Many of us understand a lot with our heads. We are being invited to embody that knowledge throughout our entire being so we can understand it in a new way. I envision a Conference-wide commitment to conversations within our churches and among all of us in the wider church. These conversations and commitment to action has the potential for transformation and co-creation. I pray you will join me.

 

Re-Opening Skyline – Safely and Inclusively

Can you believe it? It’s week 8 of SIP here in Alameda County.

So many of us in this country are engaged in the question, when will we open up again? How will we do so in a way that keeps us all safe?  As states begin to open again and restaurants welcome patrons, offices reopen, and churches begin holding in-person activities, the question we face is: Who will we leave behind?

COVID-19 is with us until we have a vaccine or cure. Some of us are more vulnerable to being killed by this virus if we contract it. As a nation, we are caught between the tension of restarting our economy and risking the spread of COVID 19, that has already killed over 80,000 people in our country, disproportionately poor people of color. How do we re-open in a way that keeps all of us safe and leaves no one behind?

It’s a particularly challenging question for Skyline as a faith community. The Skyline community, like many protestant churches, is older and most at risk. How do we open the church and carry on knowing that our oldest members, already struggling to engage new technology, will be left out of important moments of being a community together? Who will we leave behind? I’m reminded of how often Jesus promised: I will not abandon you, whether you’re a lost sheep, or an orphan. Let’s not leave anyone behind!

It’s also a particularly challenging question for Skyline as a small church, that also owns a preschool and offers our venue for rentals and weddings. The challenges of maintaining social distancing and sanitary conditions will be formidable in such gatherings. How do we plan to open up in a way that maximizes the safety of us all, and balance this with our economic reality that most of our revenues come from our preschool and weddings?

I don’t have an easy answer for us, as a country or as Skyline. We are continually monitoring the guidelines from the CDC and local Alameda County health department for both church and preschool openings.

But I do have faith that we can do this if we engage in this process together. You’re invited to consider the gifts that you have in this important conversation. Get involved!

As we begin reopening, let us do so with deep compassion and measured patience. We have much to learn about how to be together right now. Let’s make sure we discern the way forward together.

 

God is with us through this Storm

These are days in which we feel tossed about by the rough winds and waves, like boats at sea. These are times of change, loss and confusion. And times of living with so many unanswered questions: When do we open?  Do we stay home? Will my job be there when this is over? Will my child be going to school in the fall? Will I run out of money this month? Can my family help me if I should need it? What will I do if I get sick and don’t have insurance?

It’s hard to find our bearings, hard to predict the winds, and hard to see the shore.  Life feels adrift, and while we are sharing the experience of disorientation, we are not all experiencing the same vulnerabilities. We are in this together, but our journeys are uniquely our own.

I am grateful to ride out the winds and waves together. My comfort comes not in an expectation that God will perform some great miracle, but that God is with us through it all. We can trust this journey because we are not alone.

I recently read a piece that conveyed this sense of isolated connection that I’ve been experiencing: 

I heard that we are all in the same boat, but it’s not like that. We are in the same storm, but not in the same boat. Your ship could be shipwrecked, and mine might not be.

Or vice versa.

For some, quarantine is optimal. A moment of reflections, of re-connection, easy in flip-flops, with a cocktail or coffee. For others, this is a desperate financial and family crisis.

For some that live alone, they’re facing endless loneliness. While for others it is peace, rest, and time with their mother, father, sons and daughters.

With the $600 (US) weekly increase in unemployment, some are bringing in more money to their households than they were working.

Others are working more hours for less money, due to pay cuts or loss in commissioned sales.

Some families of four just received $3400 from the stimulus package, while other families of four saw $0.

Some were concerned about getting a certain candy for Easter, while others were concerned if there would be enough bread, milk, and eggs for the weekend.

Some want to go back to work because they don’t qualify for unemployment and are running out of money. Others want to kill those who break quarantine.

Some are at home spending two to three hours a day, helping their child with online schooling, while others are doing the same on top of a 10–12 hour work day.

Some have experienced the near death of the virus, some have already lost someone from it, and some are not sure if their loved ones are going to make it.

 

Others don’t believe this is a big deal.


Others say the worst is yet to come.
Some have faith in God and expect miracles this year.

We are not in the same boat. We are going through a time when our perceptions and needs are completely different.

Each of us will emerge, in our own way, from this storm. It is important to see beyond what is seen at first glance. Not just looking, actually seeing.

We are all on different ships during this storm, experiencing a very different journey. — Unknown Author