Today’s writer reflects on Session 5 in Now Is The Time: A Study Guide for ELCA Declaration to People of African Descent as the starting point for her blog. Session 5 of the guide invites participants to examine the meaning of racial justice and reparations so that we can work toward reconciliation.
The Declaration of the ELCA to People of African Descent” is an acknowledgment of the church’s complicity in slavery and the perpetuation of systemic racism. Now Is The Time: A Study Guide for ELCA Declaration to People of African Descent focuses on deepening understanding of that history and engaging white people in conversation on the meaning and impact of slavery and systemic racism. Participant materials are available in addition to the study guide.
by Joy Michalicek
As a Minnesotan, I watched in horror as the George Floyd murder was shown on television in May 2020. How could this happen in Minnesota? We are the Land of “Minnesota Nice.” We were taught from birth to be nice, get along, and avoid confrontation. How could this happen?
As I watched the news in horror, I also watched the reactions on social media. Sadly “white privilege” started to show its ugly entitled head. I had friends and family members quickly condemn “Black Lives Matter.” They put up posts that read “All Lives Matter.” Other friends and family marched with the protestors.
I listened as a co-worker described what was going on outside his apartment building in Minneapolis. He lived in the area where the murder occurred. A few days after the murder, the police station was burned, and he could see the building burn from his apartment. I asked him if he was staying safe.
He told me there was a Lutheran Church that was a few blocks away. He said, “They are handing out food to everyone. I offered to pay for what I was given and was told no.” He said the volunteers told him it was a gift to all who were there. He also said that the church building was open as a sanctuary for those in need. He said it was the anchor of the neighborhood.
A few days later our employer, The University of Minnesota, closed for the afternoon system-wide. We were told to go home and watch George Floyd’s funeral. I listened to Reverend Sharpton as he talked about our brown Jesus (a Middle Eastern Jew is not white). I knelt as instructed so that I could feel how long over nine minutes feels. How could the officer kneel on his neck that long? I cried with the congregation as we were told to rise. Our Brother-in-Christ, George Floyd, was dead.
Jesus calls us to love one another. The lawyer of the Pharisees asked Jesus for the greatest commandment. Jesus said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40)
So how does this apply to this study? We are to love all our brothers and sisters as Christ loves us. We are called to Just Love. As we have journeyed through this study we have learned of past failures and injustices. We have also learned how prejudice and privilege continue to this day. For some of us, this may be the first time we are learning this, for others we have heard this before. Now that we know, we must put our education into practice. History that is forgotten will repeat itself. As Christians, we cannot let that happen by orders from Jesus.
Now that our eyes have been opened and we are educated; it is time to act. As you see injustices, speak up. Is it scary and uncomfortable? – yes. Was the Cross comfortable? – no. Will Jesus go with us and be with us? – yes. “Do not fear, for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10)
Here is an example of something Women of the ELCA is trying to right. The Executive Committee of the Churchwide Executive Board, at our March 12 meeting, voted unanimously to recommend moving Bold Women’s Day from the last Sunday of February to the first Sunday of March. Why? Because February is Black History Month. March is Women’s History Month and includes International Women’s Day. By moving Bold Women’s Day to March, we don’t dilute the observance of Black History Month in February. The Churchwide Executive Board will officially vote to move Bold Women’s Sunday at its April 2022 meeting.
It is time to move past rhetoric and put our faith into action. This is a baby step, but all journeys start with one step.
Joy Michalicek, of Duluth, Minn., is the president of Women of the ELCA for the 2020-2023 triennium.