What Now? A Pastoral Word from Conference Minister Reverend Shari Prestemon

jamar clarkThe two Minneapolis police officers involved in the shooting death of Jamar Clark in north Minneapolis on November 15, 2015 will not be charged.  That word came just this morning from Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman following a four-month investigation.  The question I find myself praying about this afternoon, the anxious nagging at my heart, is this: What now?

This afternoon and this evening there will be protests and rallies of those who feel deeply that justice has not been served in this matter.  Others will stand with those who protest as a matter of solidarity and in witness to the fact that black lives matter, that Jamar Clark’s life mattered.  And right now many of us sit with heavy hearts, fearful of the anger that will no doubt erupt, cognizant that — whatever the facts of this particular case – we are a deeply fractured community and nation.

The events that occurred in the late night of that November day are heart-breaking; a life was lost and a community divided. But the questions and anger and passion those events elicited are about far more than what happened that particular night.  They are but a symptom of our nation’s collective sin:  racism.  They are about legal and economic systems that continue to privilege some and victimize others.  They are about a tempest of unresolved and deeply rooted pain in communities constantly made to feel somehow less than human.  They are about our inability as a nation to heal and reconcile across racial lines until we authentically confront what really divides us.

So, the question remains: what now?  Some of us will pray for peace in our communities and justice delayed.  Some of us will protest, joining our voices with the cries of others.  Some of us will organize neighborhoods and seek new places of cross-racial dialogue.  Others will preach about it or start a discussion group or read books to gain new understanding.

To me it matters not what you choose to do; it only matters that all of us do something.  Whether we live in Minneapolis or in the rural farmlands of Minnesota, it should matter profoundly to us as people of faith that racism still defines and divides our lives and communities so powerfully.  Whether you agree or disagree with the announcement today in the Jamar Clark case, it should matter that these events have laid bare yet again such a bitter wound in our nation. All of this should matter because it matters greatly to God.   We who claim Jesus Christ as our Example and Teacher are called to build relationships and a world that is radically inclusive, extravagantly loving, exceedingly merciful, and stubbornly rooted in justice.  Simply put, we are called to care when our brothers and sisters hurt.

None of that is easy.  The call of our faith can be downright uncomfortable.  But the Christ who journeyed all the way to the Cross and beyond it to New Life has set the standard for our own path of faithfulness.  Let us be a People of the Resurrection. Let us be love and hope and gracious new life in the complex world of this day.  Right now.

Your partner in the journey,

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Reverend Shari Prestemon, Conference Minister