To show our belief in the sacred worth of black lives, Annandale UMC recently convened a committee to create artwork reflecting that philosophy. Below is a reflection on the meaning of that artwork from Pam Jones.
A Witness to the Love and Lordship of Jesus
Pam Jones, Lay Leader
I believe the only path forward for the healing of our country is a path that prioritizes an affirmation of a loving concern, appreciation and oneness in relationship with all people. I believe that many people of faith are overdue in speaking up and standing in solidarity with people of color. It’s not enough for me and my church, in my opinion, to remain neutral and silent while injustice and systemic racism continue to reign. We must peacefully take a stand, speak up, and rise up. I believe the art display will be a visible witness to the love and Lordship of Jesus. Because Jesus is Lord Black Lives Are Sacred. I stand in solidarity with my brothers and sisters of every race as I have my life long. I have witnessed firsthand the hate and oppression that many people in the Black community experience simply because of the color of their skin. While some progress has been made, racism and white supremacy unfortunately live on today. Let me tell you a little of my story and why I’ve marched for justice for over 50 years.
I grew up in the 50s and 60s in a small town in North Carolina. Cleveland is a typical southern town where Black people lived on one side of town and white people on the other. Mimosa Street marked the boundary. My mother died when I was young and my brother and I were raised by a Black nanny, Miss Laura. For reasons I couldn’t understand at the time we could not play with her children nor were they allowed to step out of the street into our yard or even to talk to us if we were outside playing. If the children needed their mother they had to stand in the street and yell for her. This scenario seemed confusing and punitive until years later when our beloved nanny explained that for the safety of her family and ours it was best we had no interaction. Her further explanation tasted bitter and went down hard.
When my dad was elected chairperson of the Black school board my family experienced cross burnings in our yard when the KKK came to pay us a “you’re playing with fire” visit. And guess whose threatening voices were among the loudest? Some were men who were members of the Methodist Church I attended! In fact, one was my Sunday School teacher! I recognized Mr. Somers’s voice. The hoods disguised their faces but not their voices or their hearts. I begged not to attend Sunday School because I was afraid. Dad said we’d be attending church every Sunday. It was all very confusing to me until years later when my dad had “the talk” with me.
I won’t bore people with more of the numerous examples of hate and racism that I observed and experienced in my formative years and still do to this day. I could write a book. I’ll just say I’ve learned a lot. I’ve seen and felt the hurt, oppression, and subjugation that results from systemic racism, hate, injustice, evil and disrespect. As a result, I’ve learned a lot too about protesting and standing up for justice, decency, and good.
Those of us who join together in Morning Prayer each morning pray the Prayer for Peace from Brian Zahnd’s Liturgy for Morning Prayer. You might want to incorporate it in your devotion and prayer time. It is as follows:
O God, you have made of one blood all the peoples of the earth, and sent your blessed Son to preach peace to those who are far off and to those who are near; Grant that people everywhere may seek after you and find you; bring the nations into your fold; pour out your Spirit upon all flesh; and hasten the coming of your kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
As people of faith, people who call ourselves followers of Christ, we have work to do. The Church should be a leader in the pursuit of justice and refuse to remain silent when the sacredness of any lives is threatened. Can we identify as Christian if we do not stand against structures or human actions within society that result in people being oppressed, marginalized or treated unjustly? What is the Church if it does not value the lives of “all of the peoples of the Earth,” all God’s children?
I understand that I will never understand. Therefore, I stand.