May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be always with you!
Last night, after our Tuesday night "church family movie," we had an excellent discussion about racism. (We watched The Blind Side, a 2009 movie about a Black homeless teen who is taken in by a White family who then goes on to become a professional football player.) There were many different layers of racism that we observed in this film.
Overt racism from the mother's friends, who flip-flopped between disbelief that she would do such a "dangerous" thing, and then complimenting her for doing such a "noble" thing.
More subtle racism from the teachers at the otherwise all-White private school who were unwilling to meet the student where he was at (ie a student who had fallen through the cracks of the educational system) to help him develop his potential.
Then, stepping outside the story into the framework of the movie, we also observed that there were no "good" Black characters in the movie outside of the main character. We met his drug-addicted mother, absent (and now dead) father, drug dealing and violent neighbours/friends, a pushy and mis-guided NCAA investigator, and non-invested people working in the social welfare system who had to be shown how to do their job by a pushy White woman.
And finally, there was the whole White Saviour story-line, that says that the only way a Black character can escape their situation is by being saved by a White character. There was one scene that made me feel especially uncomfortable where his White guardian tracked down his Black mother, and you could tell that she was desperate for his mother to give thanks for "rescuing" her son for a better life, but his mother was unwilling to give it.
Like I said - we had a great discussion!
Why should we care about these things, as the church? We know that God loves all of God's children (ie everyone!); but in the bible we see again and again that God tends to be on the side of anyone who is oppressed. God rescues the Ancient Israelite people from slavery in Egypt, and then reminds them that they should act with justice and kindness towards foreigners in their land, as they had the experience of being an outsider. When the people end up in exile in Babylon, God works through the Persian King Cyrus to allow them to return home. And when God eventually chooses to become human, God isn't born in the Emperor's palace in Rome, but rather in poverty in a neglected and oppressed corner of the Roman Empire as part of a minority religion.
God is on the side of anyone who is oppressed; and in our world today, racism is one of the forces that oppresses certain people. (And unfortunately in our United Church, racism is also alive and well, taking many different forms just as we saw in the movie. Some of you might remember that in early 2020, just before the pandemic, we had started watching part of the General Council Meeting from 2018 when racialized people in the United Church of Canada shared their experiences of racism with everyone who was gathered. This exercise was cut short - first by a couple of snow storms and then by the pandemic - but it might be something that we consider looking at again.)
One of the first steps towards breaking cycles of racism is by being aware of it - not only in the overt forms that it takes, but also in the subtle ways. And as we become more and more aware of the racism around us, then we can be empowered to start challenging it. It isn't enough to be "not racist" - I believe that we are called to be anti-racist. The world needs to be a safe place for all of God's children, not just those of us who were born with the privilege that white skin gives to us. Racism in every form needs to be taken apart in our world.
For an excellent diagram that shows a pyramid of racist beliefs and actions, ranging from indifference to genocide, you can click here.
And to watch a short (3-minute) animated movie about the importance of the Black Lives Matter movement, you can click here. This is the Grade 5 graduation speech of Jolia Bossette given in June 2020. I encountered it back in May when it was shown as part of an anti-racism workshop at MacDonald Consolidated School that I was invited to.
And now on to announcements for this week:
Worship on Sunday will be at 9:15 at Long Reach and 11:15 at Westfield and on Facebook Live. Now that we are on the other side of our Flower Services, we will be continuing with our summer series exploring the stories of women in the bible. This week, we will be reading about and discussing Eve (and if you want to read ahead, you'll find her story in Genesis 2-3).
Speaking of Flower Services, THANK YOU to everyone who helped make them a success at our three churches - to those who provided the flowers (Cathy Thorne, Brenda Brooks, Anne Titus, Martha Crabbe), to those who helped arrange them at the service, to everyone who greeted or read scripture, to everyone who contributed to the lunches at Long Reach and Bayswater-Summerville - THANK YOU!
Movie Nights - we are not going to be gathering to watch a movie next Tuesday, July 25, because we are encouraging everyone to attend the First Nations Storytelling Event being hosted by Quispamsis United Church (see next announcement!). Our next movie will be on Tuesday August 1.
First Nations Storytelling Event - Quispamsis United Church is inviting all Saint John area churches to join them on Tuesday July 25 (gathering at 6:45 for a 7pm start) at East Riverside Kinghurst Park (2603 Rothesay Rd) under the gazebo. You will want to bring: folding chair, bug spray, drinks/snacks, and a donation to help cover the costs. If anyone would like to carpool from Westfield, meet in the parking lot at the church at 6pm so we can sort out rides. (Peninsula People - I encourage carpooling from the peninsula as well, but most of you probably won't want to travel to Rothesay via Westfield!)
The Summerville Art Festival is back again this year for the first time since 2018! This year it is expanding beyond a single day, and workshops and artists' talks will be taking place in the week leading up to the big event on August 19. (We will be involved, both hosting a pop-up gallery on the 19th, as well as hosting many of the talks in the lead-up to it at Summerville United Church.) The best way to know what is going on, as well as when and where, is through the Art Festival's Facebook page - click here (it is a "public" page, so you don't need to have a Facebook account to view it).
As well as announcements about what is going on in our churches and in our community, I also wanted to remind you of ways that you can stay connected with what is going on in the wider church.
Regional Weekly Announcements - this is an e-mail that comes out every Wednesday evening, with announcements of things happening in the United Church around Fundy St. Lawrence Dawning Waters Region (New Brunswick, PEI, and the Gaspé), as well as occasional announcements from Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. You can sign up to receive them by clicking here.
Spark! is a newsletter that come out every couple of months (by e-mail or print) with a couple of longer articles about things that have happened around Fundy St. Lawrence Dawning Waters Region. Last month included an interview with our new Regional President, Rev. Dr. Elizabeth Stevenson, as well as a write-up about the recent national UCW gathering in Cape Breton. I re-worked my reflection from last week about Artificial Intelligence and the church, and it will be part of the August issue. You can sign up to receive Spark! by clicking here.
The United Church of Canada nationally also has a number of different e-mail newsletters that are sent out at different frequencies. To scan the list to see if there are any topics that might interest you, you can click here.
Affirm United has a monthly-ish newsletter that includes news about other Affirming ministries across the country, as well as events (virtual and in-person) that they are hosting. You can sign up by clicking here.
And I think that is it for today.
As a closing thought, I want to share with you some words of wisdom recently shared by one of my AST professors, Rev. Dr. Rob Fennell. You can read them by clicking here.
Blessings to you and yours, today and always!
Rev. Kate Jones Two Rivers Pastoral Charge (506) 757-2201 (office) (506) 343-1307 (mobile) www.tworiverspastoralcharge.com Pronouns: she/her/hers "Teacher, what is the greatest commandment in the law?"
Jesus replied, "You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: "You must love your neighbour as you love yourself."