Bearing Steadfast Witness

Many of you will have noticed that our church lawn is host to a new “Black Lives Matter” sign, as are several of the Protestant churches and other faith communities in Brattleboro, Dummerston and Guilford. Though the idea for the sign may have popped up around one horrific death of one young African-American at the hands of White authority, it isn’t there to respond to any one particular tragedy so much as it is a statement on the condition of race relations in our nation.

If you’re like me and are at all active on Facebook or other social media, you’ve noticed many reactions to this topic. There are those who feel that the signs should say “All Lives Matter,” those who feel that there shouldn’t be any signs at all (and especially not on church lawns), those who feel that police officers need our support more than anyone, those who feel that social justice activists are being too strident (like the two who interrupted a Bernie Sanders rally in the northwest) and those who feel white allies are being far too silent. As for me, I feel that we are each called to stand for love, compassion and justice, but I recognize that we may all interpret that differently. In the Bible, we’re told that all are given gifts of the Spirit in different measures to be carried out in different ways. The same can be said of how we approach justice issues. Some of us will be bold and even explosive, some quiet, prayerful, and steadfast, some emotional and some unflappably persistent. There is no one-size-fits-all way to be an activist, but I stand by the fact that doing nothing in response to clear injustice is not a faithful response.

At this moment, I speak for myself only ~ not as the formal leader of the church in our village ~ when I say that whatever one feels about how change should be brought to life, there is one irrefutable fact that our sign calls out.  Here’s that fact, in stark terms: in our country, having a Black body is more dangerous than having a White body. Our faith recognizes all people to be children of God; more specifically, our faith recognizes all people to be beloved children of God. Our sign bears quiet witness to that fact and rekindles our commitment to not close our eyes to injustice.

In Christ’s love,

Rev. Susie Webster-Toleno