Praying Our Way to Change
A Pastoral Letter from the Senior Ministers of the Collegiate Churches of New York
December 4, 2014
The Collegiate Churches of New York City invite the entire denomination to be in prayer with them.
This was a very difficult week in the life of our city and our nation. In the wake of Ferguson, we received the news that a grand jury did not find any culpability of those involved in the death of Eric Garner. This has given rise to a mix of emotions that has left many people feeling numb, confused, outraged, exasperated, afraid, and hopeless. For many of our people, the specter of racism seems just under the surface of these events, and we are devastated.
We share in this pain, acknowledge the tensions it has created, and are searching for a way forward. What is clear is that our work for equality and racial reconciliation is not finished. In the words of the prophet Isaiah, we must continue to live into our call to say no to wrong, learn to do good, work for justice, and help the oppressed (1:16-17).
As we consider how God is leading us to respond, we believe we must pray our way through this. Here are the prayers that are on our hearts for our congregations, city, and nation:
We pray that we commit ourselves to serious self-examination. Jesus taught us to first examine our own complicity in a problem before pointing out the faults of others. This is particularly important in addressing racism. Racism isn’t a problem out there. It is a problem that touches all of us.
We pray that we refrain from making this an “us vs. them” issue, whether it is white vs. black, the populace vs. the police, rich vs. poor, or Republicans vs. Democrats. To categorize whole groups as the enemy is to overlook the compassionate voices for justice and equality that exist in all parts of our communities.
We pray that we seek out people who are overlooked, whose voices are unheard, and whose pain is ignored. And we pray that we seek out people who are in positions of authority, whose decisions with which we disagree and whose positions we may oppose. As we meet and bring people together, let us listen, learn, and look for reasons to love. As Dr. King said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
Finally, we pray that we “speak out for those who can’t speak” (Proverbs 31:8, GW). Things will only change when our faith, hearts, and minds join together to give voice to God’s dream for our community—one in which every person who draws breath is valued as a child of God.
This Advent, as our expectations grow around what God has done through the birth of Jesus, may our expectations also grow around what God can do through us. May God fashion us into people who bring “peace and good will to all.” And may we be a people whose collective voice cries out in the wilderness, “…the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all humanity will see it at once” (Isaiah 40:5, ISV).
Rev. Michael S. Bos, West End Collegiate Church
Rev. Dr. Michael B. Brown, Marble Collegiate Church
Rev. Robert Chase, Intersections International
Rev. Dr. Scott Kenefake, Fort Washington Collegiate Church
Rev. Dr. Jacqueline J. Lewis, Middle Collegiate Church
- It’s Time: Responding to Grand Jury Decisions, by Tom De Vries
- Our Call for Justice and Accountability, by the African American/Black Council
- National Council of Churches Makes Statement on Ferguson