For Such A Time As This: A Letter to My (Still) New Congregation

For if you keep silence at such a time as this, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another quarter, but you and your father’s family will perish. Who knows? Perhaps you have come to royal dignity for just such a time as this.

The Book of Esther, chapter 4, verse 14

Dear UPC Family,

It seems hard to believe that I’ve only been part of the UPC Family for just over 3 months. So much has happened – much of it as we have maintained social distance and sheltering in place. I am so grateful for the way that our church has responded in the midst of the challenges that fighting back coronavirus has presented. We have engaged all the changes with positive attitudes and curiosity about learning new skills and have supported each other even when facing difficult moments like unexpected deaths in our community and zoombombers in worship. The grace and resilience I’ve witnessed is a beautiful and powerful thing.

Just at the moment we seemed to be shifting from the disorientation we have been feeling as a result of shelter-in-place, we have come face to face with the evil of racism seen in the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery. As we find ourselves struggling to understand what we are seeing in the news and through social media, it’s hard to know how to respond. Some of us have been touched by fear because someone we love lives in Minneapolis, in Oakland, in Chicago, in Louisville, or just around the corner from the Peoria pawn shop that was looted. Some of us are feeling a little (or a lot) lost as we try to figure out what we should do… what we can do. Some of us don’t know what to do with the feelings we find emerging – grief, regret, anger, denial, compassion, hope, motivation.

All week, I have been searching for the right words. I want to tell you what I told my kids when they were scared or anxious: Don’t worry. It’ll be alright. Mom and Dad are here. But that seems so small in the face of the deep pain that some of us are just now experiencing – a pain which, for people of color, has been present all their lives. Instead, I decided to try to offer a word of hope and to encourage us to consider how we can remain faithful to God’s call to testify to the good news of God’s justice and grace.

Bearing witness to God’s eternal and inclusive love means we will have to do the hard work of dismantling systems of racism once and for all. This may well be the most difficult thing our church, our region, our country has ever faced. We will need to learn together how to confront racism and its impacts whenever we encounter it. Though it may feel impossible and though sometimes we may feel like we don’t know what to do, I truly believe that we are like Queen Esther who was called to face an unjust king. Like her, we have been created for such a time as this. We are a gifted community! And as the followers of Jesus did on that Pentecost Day, we can pool all our resources together and unite our multiple strengths and be part of Christ’s healing.

As we move together into this work, we can anchor our hope in the example of Christ and remember that God’s Spirit is not a Spirit of fear. The Spirit that God sent to each one of us in our baptism is a unifying Spirit of love and mercy. That same Spirit will help us groan out our confessions and comfort us when we are anxious. That same Spirit will stir us from our complacency when we try to sit back and go along to get along. It is God’s Holy Spirit that calls us now to remember and show our neighbors the meaning of God’s prophetic love.

I am so glad to be part of this community. I feel so blessed to join you in this work. And I look forward to how it will unfold in our midst in such a time as this!

Grace and Peace, Pastor Debra

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