Renewing Focus On Who We Are, Not What We Are

Sabbatical Minister, Joshua Berg; Melissa Marote, Worship Associate
I am going to preach on racism this Sunday. I was taught that ministers need not explain their thought process, just deliver the message. However, my message this week is about thought processes, so I am going to make an exception.

Whenever I speak about racism; I make sure I answer the question, why me? Why is a privileged, white, heterosexual, cisgender male speaking and, should I be speaking? In this case, given this congregation is majority white, one answer is that, as a minister, I am tasked with speaking to other white people, alleviating the burden often put on people of color to talk about racism. That must include not just a focus on racism, but claiming and confronting my own racism.

When speaking about racism, I also consider how I can do so, causing the least amount of pain. A portion of this congregation identifies as people of color. So, I am also speaking to you. Will my talk serve as a reassurance that some white people are being accountable as well as anti-racist? I certainly hope so. And, from what I’ve seen so far, many in this congregation are already doing this work diligently. Thank you for working for our collective liberation.

More importantly, can I speak to other white people in a diverse audience without also causing pain to people of color? After all, I am speaking truths people of color not only already know and live, but they don’t need to hear again, certainly not from me, and are likely painful to hear. The answer to that is no, I cannot.

So, I ask for your grace this Sunday, in the form of an open mind and open heart from white people and a patient and forgiving heart from people of color. I ask you to also welcome in the music, ritual, and community, as this is much more than a talk, but a holistic spiritual experience, which I hope will also be an uplifting and transformative experience. I am certain you will take care of yourself, as you need, including reaching out to our pastoral care team if you need.

Oncologist Dr. Siddhartha Mukherjee called cancer the emperor of all maladies. Let us worship together this Sunday calling up the sacred and the spiritual in the question, “How might Americans claim culpability as beneficiaries and, intentionally or not, propagators of a racist society in order to fight the emperor of all social maladies, the cancer that is racism?”