Two weeks ago, twenty two members of Pilgrim Church in Harwich Port gathered outside the church, with signs supporting Black Lives Matter and praying for the start of a new time of harmony, peace and love among all people. This week we were joined by two neighbors who had been looking for a way to voice their support. After seeing us they went home, made signs and came back to stand on the sidewalk in silent witness to our moral resolve to stand up and speak out against racism.
Our weekly witness lasts an hour, with everyone masked and keeping six feet of distance between each other. We wave at the cars and a heartening number wave back, give a thumbs up or honk their horns in support. Some roll their windows down and thank us for our public witness. And yes, some give less supportive hand gestures, but fewer by far. This gives us hope.
But then the church received an email telling us we had no right to gather as we were. The main reason given was that as a church we should stick to spiritual matters…not politics. Like so many other well worn tropes this criticism is aimed at shaming us into silence. How dare we speak out on a public issue? Surely, we should stick to praying.
Well, I would argue that we are praying. We are praying in the tradition of the Psalmist who cried out,How long, O Lord? (Psalm 13.) This cry was uttered about injustice and the pain and sorrow it causes. It is about the suffering of some under the thumb of others. It is about one group subduing another, even unto death, in order to “win.” It is a complaint and a call for justice. It is also a statement of faith as it ends with a statement of trust in God’s steadfast love and the belief that God will bring salvation.
It is in this spirit that we stand on the sidewalk in front of the church for an hour every Tuesday at 1 pm. It is our prayer. It is the work of our faith and church. It is our personal act of faith in a divided and hurting nation. It is our calling. We will do this as long as we must. This is a time for people of faith and people of no faith to stand up, show up, and speak up. See you on Tuesday?
Rev. Peggy O’Connor