Following the tragic and brutal murder of George Floyd last week, as well as the recent senseless killings of Breonna Taylor and Amaud Arbery, in addition to the endless numbers of incidents of racially motivated killings in our past, we, your pastors, join our voices in lament over the tight hold racism has over our nation. Every system in our country is poisoned by the sin of racism, including the church. We have much for which to confess. We claim as our own the confessional statement below from our siblings in Christ at First Presbyterian Church in Atlanta. These are words we will say repeatedly and prayerfully, and we invite you to join your voices with ours in confession to those we have wronged, through our action and our inaction:
To every black and brown member of this congregation, and to this community and city we share: we confess that we are part of sinful and broken systems that hurt you. We confess that we have perpetuated bias and prejudice. We confess this in our own lives and in our ministries. We repent of the superiority and hate we have harbored, and we prostrate ourselves before the Lord who requires us, in the words of the prophet Micah, “to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with our God.” We know we have work to do. We know that we have to listen and learn. And we know that in order for there to be real change in our world, we must share the struggle for justice as our own and stand up even when we are scared and even when it comes at a cost.
To every member of this church: as your pastors, we reject indifference (“It’s not my problem”), we reject our quick claims of innocence (“I’m not a racist”), and we reject willful helplessness (“I can’t do anything”) when it comes to racism in our lives, our ministries, the church we love, our city and nation. We commit to doing the work we need to do to become anti-racist. We commit to being an ally and partner in the work for racial justice and racial equity. And we hope you will join us.
One way to do that is to join in the 21-Day Race Equity Challenge put together by our friends at Myers Park Presbyterian Church in Charlotte, NC. They have invited others to participate in this challenge, which involves daily reading selections, video watching, and other opportunities to listen and learn. We have committed to this and hope that you will as well. Click on the link above for more information and to sign up.
We have a long way to go, but we will go together, and we will go by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the power of the Holy Spirit. May our hearts be open to wherever God leads us.
With deep and abiding love and hope,
Mindy Douglas, Pastor
Susan Dunlap, Parish Associate
John Weicher, Associate Pastor
Click here to read the North Carolina Council of Churches’ response to recent protests and recurring acts of racism in our nation.
As faith leaders, we are accustomed to fulfilling our duty by congregating, by gathering for worship in prayer and song. We realize, however, that promoting and facilitating physical proximity, especially through songful worship, poses a potentially lethal threat to the health and safety of our families, friends, and neighbors.
Our responsibility to promote physical distancing during this pandemic is a sacred duty. Our traditions are diverse, yet we share a faithful devotion to the preservation of lives. Our obligation to promote public health during this pandemic is part and parcel of our core beliefs, inextricable with our sense of what God demands of us.
For this reason, we reject the notion that houses of worship ought to be exempt from orders that limit large gatherings. Lest our churches, temples, and mosques become incubators for COVID-19, houses of worship are the very places that must model safety and promote wellness.
In our hearts, there is no greater desire than for us to gather in peace. We recognize, however, that at this moment- and likely until a vaccine is available- human behavior in group settings is our greatest asset or liability. We are gravely alarmed by the widespread, reckless move to reopen institutions that put human beings in close proximity to each other. When reopening buildings to large groups, the fast-track is the lethal track. The life-affirming track, which our faiths call us to follow, is one that adheres, at every stage and with utmost prudence, to measures that reduce the risk of transmission and fatality for the vulnerable.
As we pursue our obligation to promote physical distancing, our shared religious values demand that we draw near to each other in other ways. We do not distance ourselves from harsh realities and human dignity, and we are particularly cognizant that COVID-19 is not a “great equalizer.” This pandemic attacks our citizens disproportionately, along fault lines of racial and economic inequality. Closing buildings does not mean closing hearts and hands to the sacred work of caring for our African American, Latinx, and immigrant communities. The hour calls for urgent action. While our stance regarding the timeline for safely regathering may not mirror that of our government officials, we believe that our primary responsibility during this unprecedented pandemic is to the public health and safety of those whom we have been divinely called to serve. We urge all civic leaders to lead with moral fortitude and steadfast devotion to the dignity of those most vulnerable to the health and economic impact of this pandemic.
Lastly, we invite our clergy colleagues whose views differ from our own into conversation with us. We share our convictions with humility, with a listening heart, and with full appreciation for the complexity and uncertainty that challenges all of us in this moment.
Endorsed by Rev. Dr. Mindy Douglas, pastor, First Presbyterian Church, and 41 other clergy in the Durham area. Click here to see full list of endorsers.
Join us for faith formation for adults each Sunday, across a variety of topics…
- Faith & Community – This class discusses topics of interest or concern in our community and looks for intersections with our faith. The summer study will be led by FPC’s Racial Equity Task Force. The class meets Sundays, 10 am. Contact John Weicher or the church office for access to this virtual class.
- Journeys – This class is currently discussing Falling Upward, by Richard Rohr. Most of us tend to think of the second half of life as largely about getting old, dealing with health issues, and letting go of life, but the whole thesis of this book is exactly the opposite. What looks like falling down can largely be experienced as “falling upward.” In fact, it is not a loss but somehow actually a gain, as we have all seen with elders who have come to their fullness. Sundays, 10 am. Contact Eric Wiebe, Andy Henry, or the church office for access to this virtual class.
- Lectionary – This class discusses the weekly lectionary texts, Sundays, 10 am. Contact David Smith or the church office for access to this virtual class.
- We Make the Road by Walking – Mary Berry, Abi Bissette, Emily Durham and other members of the Scratch group lead a time of check-in and support, as well as a devotional, Sundays 8 pm. Contact a class leader or the church office for access to this virtual class.
- Women’s Spirituality Group – Support and check-in for women engaged in spiritual formation during these strange times. Be in touch with Leah Graves for access to this virtual class. This class meets Sundays, 10 am.
CHILDREN AND YOUTH – ARE YOU CONNECTED? If you are not receiving a separate weekly email connecting you to FPC online activities for children and youth, contact John Weicher or Natalie Wolf to be added to the list.
Friends, do you love children, in all their glory? Our congregation is seeking a Director of Children’s Ministries, and we have officially opened the position to candidates from within the congregation – members and friends. We are seeking someone who loves children, loves Jesus, and is interested in introducing the one to the others. Might that be you?