Black Lives Matter to God and to us!
At Maxwell Street, we celebrate diversity and work for inclusion. Over the past year, we welcomed Dr. Alton Pollard III, the first African American President of Louisville Seminary to our pulpit, our Social Justice Committee did a three-month focus on the experience of African Americans in our community and nation, Rachel put together an amazing timeline/history of the Presbyterian Church’s historical relationship with slavery, and I taught a class on the Theology of African American Theologian Howard Thurman and his understanding of the Beloved Community. Over the past month, since the brutal killing of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, and Breonna Taylor, Rachel and a number of our congregation members have participated in the protests downtown, I have preached and spoken about these current events, and we both attended a gathering of nearly 100 hundred clergy who are working together to address the disparities experienced by African Americans in our community. All this to say, I believe Black Lives do matter to Maxwell Street.
Several of our congregation members requested we make a more public statement as a congregation that Black lives matter to our congregation in the form of a banner in the front of the church. I did some research and was impressed by the action taken by Fourth Presbyterian Church in Chicago. I presented this information to our Session on Monday, June 22nd, and they voted to approve a banner for the front of Maxwell Street.
Black Lives Matter
As a community of faith we affirm the inherent dignity and worth of each person, regardless of background, as created and beloved children of God. However, the society in which we live does not accord equal worth to each person. Racism, anti-blackness, and its violent and discriminatory fruit in our society have been well documented.
Throughout its history, the church has been called upon to specifically affirm the dignity of particular persons whose lives are threatened by adversity and societal sin. When systemic racism, implicit bias, and notable incidents of violence put into question whether our society truly values black lives, our congregation believes it is important to affirm the particular dignity, beauty, gifts, and worth of black people. Thus we publicly name that black lives matter.
We proclaim with this banner the theological truth that black lives matter to God. Through it we also prayerfully point to the work that we must do as a church, as individuals, and as a society so that, according to God’s vision, a day will come when every life—already valued and beloved by God—will be equally valued by all of God’s children.
And to Us
This all-embracing love of God is what we seek to proclaim in our world. At Maxwell Street, we celebrate diversity and work for inclusion. We want those who see us but do not know our community—who have never set foot in our building, joined us in worship, or participated in our programing—to know who we are and what we believe and value. We want them to know without a doubt that black lives matter to us.
Our banner signals solidarity with victims of racism, particularly African Americans. It signals that we recognize the systemic race prejudice and institutionalized white supremacy still afflicting our body politic. It acknowledges the validity of the pain and anger that have been expressed in the demonstrations resulting from yet another killing of an unarmed African American by a police officer.
Naming that black lives matter to us is also our public commitment to intensify our congregational work of anti-racism, to recommit ourselves to—as our mission statement says—“ministries of healing, reconciliation, and justice” so that all of God’s children might flourish.