A Service of Lament

A Gathering of the Restorers of the Street

A Service of Lament

A Gathering of the Restorers of the Street
Description of the Service

About the Service

On July 10, 2016, the Duluth Branch of the NAACP, St. Mark’s AME and other congregations from CHUM organized a service lamenting the loss of life in July 2016, including Alton Sterling, Philando Castile and the police officers in Dallas.  After the service, a number of people in attendance asked for access to what was shared.  While this is not a recording of the service, here is an outline of what took place.
Opening Hymn: There is a Balm in Gilead

Here is a version of the song for you to enjoy, sung by Mahalia Jackson.

Welcome and Prayer by Rev. Coleman & Thoughts from from Claudie Washington, President Duluth Branch of the NAACP

Rev. Coleman,the pastor of St. Mark AME, welcomed people to the service and stressed the need to come together as people of faith to deal with the loss of life and find a sense of hope.

President Washington shared reflections on the importance of working to fix the problem of racism, sharing the wisdom of his mother that if we can get a rocket into outer space, we can learn how to get a long with each other.  He shared a reflection by a mother, Briana Fisher.  He also shared these thoughts from the Cornell William Brooks, the President and CEO of the national NAACP.

Activists created the NAACP more than a century ago to fight racialized violence.

Then, we called it “lynching.” Today, we call it “police brutality,” but the effect is still the same — our lives are in danger. Endangered by some of the very people who are called to protect and serve us. We are all tense, angry, devastated, and grieving.

We grieve for Alton Sterling. We grieve for Philando Castile. And we grieve with the rest of the country over the senseless loss of lives in Dallas, too — because the execution of police officers does not end the execution of black Americans, and it will not put us on the path to change.

What will put us on the path to justice is the passage of the Law Enforcement Trust and Integrity Act (LETIA) and the End Racial Profiling Act (ERPA). Radical reform of policing practices, policies, and laws at all levels must be made — immediately — because the current system is taking too many lives.

We can take small solace in the fact that the outrage over this 21st century form of lynching is not isolated to the black community. Americans of all races and ethnicities are fighting to put an end to the epidemic of violence — gun violence in particular — in this country. Now is the time to come together as one in grief, in protest, and in pursuit of real, measurable change.

As an organization, we are doing everything we can to ensure justice is served, but we can’t do it alone. Stand in solidarity with your fellow activists, hand in hand with your community. Contact your elected officials to demand life-saving reforms to a broken system.

We can — and must — put an end to this together.

A Congregational Reading of Psalms 130

Psalm 130

1 Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord.
    Lord, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
    to the voice of my supplications!

If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities,
    Lord, who could stand?
But there is forgiveness with you,
    so that you may be revered.

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
    and in his word I hope;
my soul waits for the Lord
    more than those who watch for the morning,
    more than those who watch for the morning.

O Israel, hope in the Lord!
    For with the Lord there is steadfast love,
    and with him is great power to redeem.
It is he who will redeem Israel
    from all its iniquities.

A Reflection by Doug Bowen-Bailey

A Reflection on Psalm 130 and the Loss of Life

by Doug Bowen-Bailey

Out of the Depths, we cry.

The past week, I have woken to news that felt like kicks in the gut.  Alton Sterling.  Philando Castile.  The officers in Dallas.  Boom, boom, boom.  Anger, frustration, and deep, deep sadness.

I serve on the Citizen Review Board for the Duluth Police Department, and so I have invested many years in building relationships between community and police so that events like this don’t happen.  To have news of tragedy each morning for three days in a row was hard to bear.

In my life, I have learned that grief doesn’t come in neat stages that ends in acceptance.  Often when I least expect it, I finger the scars in my own heart from the losses I have experienced.

I feel them now as I mourn with the the mothers and the fathers, the daughters and the sons, the lovers and the partners whose lives have been ripped open.  I mourn that in this week, too, 4 Latinos were killed by police – and we have heard nothing about that in the national media.  That African-Americans are 2.5 times more likely to be killed by police than white people. Natives are even more likely to be killed than African-Americans.

Systems of oppression are real.  Generational trauma is real.   The grief, the anger, the fear, and the loss we feel is all too real.

Yet in the loss is also remembering.  My work on the CRB is in memory of Anthony LaDeaux.  A Lakota man who lived in Duluth for a long time and was a tireless advocate for justice.  Who revived the idea of a CRB in our town and served on the Task Force crafting it until he died.

“Our souls wait on our God, more than those who wait for the morning.”

In Toni Morrison’s, Beloved, a powerful novel about slavery and its aftermath, there is a critical point where Denver, a young girl has to leave her house to get help for her family.

Morrison writes:

Denver stood on the porch in the sun and couldn’t leave it.  Her throat itched; her heart kicked – and then Baby Suggs [her grandmother who had passed away] laughed, clear as anything.  “You mean I never told you about Carolina?  About your daddy?  You don’t remember nothing about how come I walk the way I do and about your mother’s feet, not to speak of her back?  I never told you all that?  Is that why you can’t walk down the steps?  My Jesus my.”

But you said there was no defense.

“There ain’t.”

Then what do I do?

“Know it, and go on out the yard.  Go on.”  (p. 244)

We know it.  The fear.  The loss.  the grief.  The anger.   And we will go on. Carrying with us the imprint of Alton Sterling’s son weeping.  We will live on and carry with us Diamond Reynold’s  appeal: “Please lord, don’t let them have taken my boyfriend from me.”  We will go on and remember the families of the officers in Dallas – a city which has a model police department in addressing issues of racial disparities.  We go on remembering Anthony Nunez who was shot in San Jose in the middle of a mental health crisis.

We will go on out of the depths.  But for now, we lament.    Mourning that we are yet to live in a world where black lives matter.  Where Native lives matter.  Latino Lives.  Police lives.  Where all lives matter.

“We wait on our God.  Our souls do wait.”

Time of Silence and Prayer

Rev. Coleman led the congregation in a time of silence and prayer.

Hymn: Sometimes I feel like a Motherless Child

Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child was sung by David Hoffman, accompanied by Jim Pospisil.

 

A Reading of the Parable of the Good Samaritan

The Parable of the Good Samaritan

read by Gary Anderson

25 Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” 27 He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.”

29 But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ 36 Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

Reflections by Rev. Kathy Nelson

Words following the shootings in Baton Rouge, Falcon Heights and Dallas.

Rev. Kathryn Nelson, Peace UCC, Duluth MN

Jesus was a story teller teacher.   When asked the question ‘What must I do to inherit eternal life?   He asked another question what is written in the law?   The young man responds with love God and love your neighbor?   But then he asks, Who is my neighbor?” And then Jesus’ story of the man beaten and left for dead on the road unfolds.   Jesus knows that stories draw us in and change our realities.   The stories of this week, of ones dead on the roads of our cities call for a change.   We are bleeding black and blue and it must stop.   One of those stories is so very close to home, in Falcon Heights, near the fairgrounds and remind us again that life is not all that fair, especially for our neighbors of African American Heritage.

The words that have touched my heart are those of a four year old girl, in the back seat of the car where Philando Castille was shot.   As her mother cried in the midst of her shock and grief at the shooting of her boyfriend her small daughter said, . “It’s ok, Momma I’m right here with you.”

We are called like the good Samaritan to stop on the roads and to be there with one another. To have the courage in the midst of this mess and stop. Yes the stories we tell define us, move us forward to consider the roads we walk and whose lives matter to us and whose lives matter to God.   We are reminded again in scripture that we inherit eternal life by not walking by but by really being here with one another.

The Jewish man on the road cried out in his moment of forsaken-ness. And he was answered, unbelievable answered by a Samaritan. The man lying on the road felt the sense of wonder mixed with confusion as a Samaritan helped him to heal.

Over the centuries differences in belief between Samaritans and Jews led to misunderstandings, which in turn led to suspicion and eventually to hatred. It is precisely this legacy of hostility that gives the parable its power.   None of the hearers of this story would ever expect a Samaritan to stop.   The lawyer asked hoping to put limits around his responsibility to others, “Who is my neighbor?” But the story that Jesus tells him shows that neighborliness has no bounds. Jesus’ story shatters the lawyer’s categories of who are and who are not the people of God.   God’s love has no boundaries.

And I think this story pushes us even further.   This past week I was reminded of a sermon by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr that he preached November 20, 1955 at Dexter Avenue Church.   He called it “the One- sided approach of the Good Samaritan “ Here’s an excerpt . ..

Although the parable says nothing concerning [where?] [ The Levite and the Priest might have been going, it is quite probable the Levite was on his way to Jericho to make a survey of crime in the vicinity, and perhaps the priest was en route to Jerusalem to serve on the National Committee for the Improvement of Public Highways So by a slight stretch of the imagination, or at least for argument sake, quite an excellent case can be made for the priest and Levite Before we completely condemn the Levite and the Priest we should consider this But not only is it possible to elevate the roles of the Priest and Levite, it is also easy to see the shortcomings in the conduct of the Samaritan (a) There is no suggestion that the Samaritan sought to investigate the lack of police protection on the Jericho Road Nor did he appeal to any public officials to set out after the robbers and clean up the Jericho road Here was the weakness of the good Samaritan He was concerned merely with temporary relief, not with thorough reconstruction. . . .. Christian responsibility seeks to tear down unjust conditions and build anew instead of patching things up It seeks to clear the Jericho road of its robbers as well as caring for the victims of robbery.”

We need to be there for one another, right there.   And this means working to change the roads that are unsafe for far too many black lives. As Kym Young, a black activist, challenged me, “I don’t want you to be my ally. I need you to be an accomplice.”     May we   work for reparations and create safety for all who travel our roads .   Let us go together,   here with one another.   There is lots of road work to be done ….

Time for Silence and Prayer

This time of silence and prayer was led by Lee Stuart, Executive Director of CHUM.

Hymn: It is Well with my Soul

The congregation sang the hymn, It is Well with My Soul

A Reading of Isaiah 58: 6-12

Isaiah 58:  6-12

Read by Boissey Johnson

6Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? 7Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin?

8Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly; your vindicator shall go before you, the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. 9Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am.

If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil, 10if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday. 11The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail.

12Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in.

A Reflection by Rev. Catherine E. Schuyler

A Reflection by Rev. Catherine E. Schuyler

So much pain. So much suffering. So many mamas, and lovers, and brothers and sisters who mourn the death of men whom they loved. With them our hearts mourn. Not because we knew Alton or Philando or Lorne or Michael or Brent or Patrick or Michael. We didn’t. We know our own young men, our sons, brothers, sons-in-law, husbands, fathers, friends. And we love them. Dearly. And because we are human we recognize that our love and the love of the families of those who were shot this week is the same love. So we mourn with them, for lives cut short too soon, for babies who won’t know their daddies, for this society where violence is determined to take over as the only way we know to deal with each other. There are many voices declaring this is not what we want. But it seems to be what we have. The word of God declares that there is another way. There is hope that we might not be known for our killing but for our caring. The word from Isaiah says: If you will open your eyes and see the suffering around you and answer it. If you will acknowledge and name the pain, name the racism, name the power of white privilege built into the structures of society, if you will see and listen so you can care for those who suffer – feed the hungry, free the oppressed, welcome the homeless poor into your homes and into your lives – then shall your light break forth like the dawn, then holy light will shine forth from your community. You shall be refreshed and refreshing, like streams and lakes of pure fresh water. You shall be the restorer of the streets; those same streets where guns destroy life shall be the places where life blooms. Those streets that are so broken that black men are not safe there, so broken that police are not peace officers but threats and threatened at all times, armed and ready to kill or be killed. This is not the life that God calls us to. This is not the city of God. Our hearts long to be the repairers of the breach, the restorers of streets where children play and friends meet and visit, where strangers treat each other with deep respect.

It’s why we are here this afternoon. Being here we name the brokenness, coming together we grieve with those who grieve, we acknowledge that the streets of our cities are broken, torn up worse than Fourth Street by Burrito Union or Sixth Street just outside those doors in late March. God’s light shining through us is the repair tool we need. We gather today because we claim the promise of repair, of restoration; we know that another way is possible. We are not there. In Duluth, in Falcon Heights, in Baton Rouge and in Dallas, in Staten Island and Ferguson, we are not there at all. If we will see the pain that is before us, and not shut our eyes or our souls to the suffering of our brothers and sisters, if we are willing to name the racism that infects our streets and the violence that shatters the foundations of our sidewalks and call it wrong, evil and not of God, then we can begin the process of repairing it with jackhammers of justice and asphalt of love. Amen.

Reflection by Sharon Witherspoon

Coming

Closing Hymn: Standing on the Promises of God
Benediction

A benediction was given by Rev. Charlotte Frantz

Time of Silence and Prayer

Time for Silence and Prayer; Jackie Falk

Here in the silence we breathe God’s gifts of life and breath; here we let our souls sit in God’s true rest.

Here as God’s people we call to you and you answer us; answers we receive even when we don’t fully understand, so we may be changed.

Let pointing fingers be lowered; let all words of fear be silenced; all acts of hate and violence, stilled. In such space of mercy and grace let us work to repair the breach, to make our streets safe to dwell in. Let that work become our love and worship until the oppressed are liberated, the wounded are healed and all reparations are made. It is well with our souls when we stand in God’s sure strength and are rooted in God’s endless love; then our tears become the healing waters that do not fail.
May it be so.