Pastoral Letter to First Plymouth Congregational Church
“Declaring Racism a Sin:
Call to Confession, Education, Prayer and Action”
We are a faith community that seeks to live out the gospel message, following Jesus to work for justice, pray with our faith and our feet, that all might know abundant life.
We condemn the sin of racism and reject all forms of racial violence against our black and brown brothers and sisters.
We declare openly and wholeheartedly that Black Lives Matter.
We commit to working for the healing, justice, and freedom of black and brown people.
We call upon the First Plymouth community to confess our white privilege and complicity in perpetuating structures and practices of “whiteness” that aids white supremacy in this country.
We call upon the First Plymouth community to join us in working for justice and equity through confession, education, prayer, and action.
We must do better.
First Plymouth Ministerial Staff:
Rev. Jenny Shultz-Thomas, Sr. Pastor
Rev. Dr. Eric Smith, Teaching Pastor
Rev. Dr. Anthony Scott, Pastoral Associate for Congregational Care
Alix Wright, Director of Children and Family Ministry
Joel Rinsema, Director of Music
Confession is a central part of the Christian life. As believers in the way of love, we are called to self-examine daily, through prayer, lamenting our sins, confessing and finally seeking forgiveness from our God and our neighbors for the harm we have caused. The work to end racism begins with white people acknowledging our complicity in perpetuating white supremacy, benefiting from the oppression of black and brown people, and for the pain and suffering our black and brown brothers and sisters have endured these last 400 years. We must confess our sins and declare white supremacy the ultimate lie of the church and the state.
The United Church of Christ invites the church to declare racism a sin. Please join with the Church universal in confession:
The resource entitled, “Transformative Justice: Being Church and Overcoming Racism”, acknowledges racism as a sin and states the following:
Churches have declared that racism is a sin.
Racism is a sin because it:
- denies the very source of humanity, the image of God in humankind;
- destroys God’s likeness in every person and thus repudiates creation and its goodness;
- assumes that human beings are not equal before God and are not part of God’s family;
- is contrary to biblical teaching;
- denies basic justice and human dignity;
- is a blatant denial of the Christian faith;
- is incompatible with the Gospel;
- is a flagrant violation of human rights;
- separates us from God and from other human beings;
- makes us blind to the reality of people’s suffering and
- perpetuates racist attitudes, practices and institutional racism.
We have confessed that racism is a sin, not only as individual Christians, but also as churches. To affirm that racism is a sin has a radical implication for the churches: the radical commitment to overcome it.
—Transformative Justice: Being Church and Overcoming Racism, Resource Guide, World Council of Churches 2004
This is our Prayer:
Dear God, Creator of the universe and all that inhabit it, we come as your Church, and as individuals, in humble submission to Your Word and Your Way. God, you who are Alpha and Omega, The Almighty Judge and The Forgiver of All Sins, we come with bowed heads and contrite hearts on behalf of generations past, present and those yet unborn. We now ask that you forgive us and create in us a new spirit. Bind our hearts and send forth the healing power that You and You alone can give to us and this sin-sick world. Bring us into reconciliation with one another and restore us to thy path. Amen.
Adaptation of Alter Prayer, Acknowledging The Breach, from Reparations: A Process for Repairing The Breach: A Study and Discussion Guide for Local Congregations, Associations and Conferences of the United Church of Christ.
As followers of Jesus, and members of the United Church of Christ, we exist in a long-line of faithful activists for justice and equity who never tire of enlightening ourselves for the sake of God’s radical and inclusive love. We as a church are called to continue this pursuit of knowledge as we seek to dismantle white supremacy, and end the sin of racism across the world. Below are resources to assist you on your journey. Dr. Ibram X. Kendi is one of the nation’s foremost historians and leading scholars on racism. He shares an anti-racist syllabus for those seeking to begin or continue their anti-racist journey:
Anti-racist syllabus compiled by Ibram X. Kendi
“Witnessing Whiteness” by Tim Wise- witnessingwhiteness.com
Please join the United Church of Christ and the Church universal in praying. Either pray the “Alter Prayer” above, or write your own prayer of lament, and confession for the sins of racism, and pray it as often as you can, knowing that our God hears us when we cry out, and is quick to guide our steps towards healing and wholeness.
Sing your prayers:
Vincent Harding speaks life through song at The While Goose Festival with his song lyrics, “We are Building Up a New World”:
Sung to the tune of “We are Climbing Jacob’s Ladder” these lyrics will help us sing the movement into being:
We are building up a new world (3x)
Builders must be strong.
Courage sisters don’t get weary,
Courage brothers don’t get weary,
Courage people don’t get weary,
Though the road be long.
(From Juniper Foundation)
To help get you started, here are a few ideas for cultivating sustainable spiritual and relational anti-racism practices:
- Learn and talk about politics, religion, and money in “polite company,” and any company. “Polite company” means socially superior people, that’s code for White Supremacy, and avoiding the topics of politics, religion, and money only serves structural and systemic white supremacy. Jesus almost exclusively preached, taught, and engaged one-to-one on the topics of politics, religion (faith), and money—follow Jesus and spread the good news!
- Build loving, real, meaningful, trustworthy relationships.
- Check-in with your BIPOC (black, indigenous & people of color) friends, colleagues, family, pastor, and parishioners when racism rears its evilness in our communities and world. Then check-in again when it happens two days later or the next week. Show up and be present. This goes for anyone whose identity is systemically oppressed and discriminated against too.
- Listen to the lived experiences of BIPOC and hear their words as truth. Notice if your mind or body starts to resist, judge, or question their truth, withhold judgement, and interrogate the root of this inner resistance. If their experience doesn’t fit your narrative of how the world works, respond with trust, curiosity, and love. It is a blessing to share and receive one another’s truths, an opportunity for empathy, wisdom and expansion of the heart, mind and spirit. Make more room, not less.
- Offer regular prayers that lift up the names and lives of those who have died from police violence and racism, and those living and dead saints who fight for racial justice. Learn how to say their names correctly and from the memory of your heart, learn about their lives so that they become real to you like family, and then pray so that God would know you are praying for God’s beloved children. Pray together as family, friends, neighbors, small groups and congregations.
- Respond to petitions and participate in letter writing and phone calling campaigns to legislators and others in power demanding they take action to create anti-racist policies and put people before profit. Invite others to join you, there is power in relationships.
- Read one article or watch one video a day, one book a week/month, and then share with others what you learned and make a personal recommendation to someone else who could benefit from this shared wisdom.
- Support BIPOC-led organizations and businesses. Make your money and investments work in support of racial justice. (300 Magazine list of 200+ Black-owned businesses to support in Denver)
- Examine all-white institutional leadership and create BIPOC-inclusive leadership. If the leadership of your church, organization, business, or social and civic groups do not include BIPOC, work to uncover and understand what internal cultural ideas, values, narratives, histories, relationships, structures, and systems are functioning to maintain white supremacy in institutional leadership. Then work to dismantle and co-create new ways of being together that include BIPOC leadership.
- Host an anti-racist movie/documentary night or an online watch party each week with your family, church and/or community. Discuss how you felt, what you learned, what new understanding is emerging, what questions you have and what additional resources you need, and how you are motivated to action. Pay attention to how BIPOC are represented in media, and make sure to intentionally include media that centers BIPOC in their fullness, power, wisdom, culture, beauty and life. Challenge media narratives that dehumanize and/or victimize BIPOC.
- Amplify BIPOC voices by following and sharing BIPOC leaders on social media, listen to their podcasts, read their research and theology, listen to their preaching, know them as experts, and support their ministries. Always cite BIPOC if you integrate their intellectual and spiritual wisdom into your preaching, writing, research and conversations with others.
Read more here for “Immediate Action” you can take, for “Advocacy and Policy” changes to work for, and more:
Black Lives Matter /Resist Racism —items for purchase:
T-shirts, Hoodies, Hats, Masks and more