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Dear Church

Dear Church,

As I write this letter, I find myself in a place of lament. I lament the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and many black lives taken by the grasp of white supremacy. I lament the numerous blacks lives that are being taken by this pandemic. 

In search of consolation, I run to the voices of my ancestors before me. Black and brown people who sang spirituals colored by their cries for freedom in the grasp of slavery. Oppressed persons who expressed the pain of their existence in an unjust society in the melodies of the Blues. I run to the words of Langston Hughes, Billie Holiday, Ntozake Shange, and Martin Luther King, who speak the truth of pain to power. As I listen to the words of marginalized groups, I can’t help but notice how deeply their voices echo the prophets of old in scripture.

They call us out and speak of a present and future rooted in the reality of heaven.

Prophets are called inspired teachers and proclaimers of the will of God. They call us out and speak of a present and future rooted in the reality of heaven. Did they speak of the bright hope in the days to come? Yes. But they also spoke of their pain, their struggle, and their frustration in a world where their bodies were deemed less worthy. They lament.. Their voices are timeless and relevant. They have much to say about our personal need to lament and offer a critique to the way the American church addresses suffering.

The American church is often characterized by an overwhelming perception of optimism and triumph. Our major key songs reflect themes of light and “oh happy days.” Our messages must always have a silver lining. We seem to forget that 40% of the psalms are cries of lament, that there’s a whole book in the Bible titled Lamentations, and that even Jesus cried out to God as he died on the cross.

James Cone, author of The Cross and the Lynching Tree says, “When you can express and articulate what is happening to you, you have a measure of transcendence over it. It gives you speech and self-definition. Anytime you can articulate your reality, even your loss, there is a terrible beauty.The tragedy is looking at that reality sharply, plainly. That beauty is that you are not defined by it.” 

If we do not name injustice, we let the triumph of some prevail

The image of the cross and the lynching tree is so powerful to me. Personally, it reminds me that God is not far removed from the suffering my ancestors lived. Jesus lived it, too. To me, the resurrection embodies transcendence. When I hear painful side-comments, am misunderstood or overlooked, or I am in spaces where my skin or my hair feels like a curse, it is the reminder of Jesus’s suffering and resurrection that grants solidarity, transforms the ache, and gives my heart strength to beat again. Fully human. Full of hope. But first, we must recognize the ache. 

Church, if we cannot lament, we cannot be true to ourselves. If we do not speak loudly about hard things, we do not let them change us. If we do not name injustice, we let the triumph of some prevail and leave the suffering of many in the shadows. If we cannot hear each other's cries, we cannot answer them.

If we say we want reconciliation, then we must learn to bear witness to suffering and not run away from it. If we want the way to unity in the Church to be neat, tidy, and fixed with a bow, we will not get there. If you cannot sit on the sidewalk and listen to the cries of marginalized people as they cry for the ones they have lost to violence or the disproportionate amounts of black lives being taken by COVID-19, we will not get there. If you turn your eye from the history of slavery, lynching, and mass incarceration, we will not get there. If you want to welcome people who face discrimination and inequality everyday to your church and expect them to sing your songs and lift your hallelujahs, there is a long road ahead. We must drop the facades and go to the hard, uncomfortable places. God lives in lament and the work we do from those places is far greater than what we can do from a distance.

May we find peace in knowing that when we cry, we will be held.

May we be a church that does not silence our pain, but uses it as a tool to bring us closer to God and each other.  

Beloved, this message is more important now than ever. We are living in a harsh reality. Just when we thought the world was already on fire, loved ones in our communities are suffering. We long for normal. We long for healing. We are “crushed because our people are crushed.” We ask, “Isn’t there a balm in our land? Isn’t there a doctor here? Why aren’t the hurts of my people healed?” Our “heads are like a spring of water and our eyes like a fountain of tears.”  

My dear brothers and sisters, our tears are not in vain. May we find peace in knowing that when we cry, we will be held. Our God of unconditional love is not afraid of our confusion. The Spirit of abundance holds space for us. Christ,who knows suffering, walks with us. 

May peace that passes all understanding be with you. 

In love and solidarity, 


We join other churches and faith groups in observing Monday, June 1 as a National Day of Mourning and Lament, as we mark the death of 100,000 people in the U.S. from COVID-19.

Photo by Samuel Martins on Unsplash

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