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By action of the 2019 Churchwide Assembly, the ELCA pledged to remember the June 17, 2015, hateful murder of nine persons at Mother Emanuel African Methodist Church in Charleston as they gathered for an evening Bible Study. This commemoration of the lives and witness of Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton; Mrs. Cynthia Graham Hurd; Mrs. Susie J. Jackson; Mrs. Ethel Lee Lance; Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor; Rev. Clementa C. Pinckney; Mr. Tywanza Kibwe Diop Sanders; Rev. Daniel Lee Simmons, Sr.; and Mrs. Myra Singleton Quarles Thompson takes many forms across our church body as we strive to address the deep-rooted history of racism within our churches and our culture.
This year, in the Saint Paul Area Synod, the Commemoration of the Emanuel Nine comes as an alignment with an urgent witness against street violence in St. Paul and Minneapolis. Rather than gathering for a specific worship service, you are invited to join the 21 Days for Peace, led by the historic black churches in the Twin Cities, including the AME congregations in Minnesota.
Details for participation in the 21 Days for Peace are outlined in this letter from Presiding Elder Stacy Smith, President of the Minnesota Council of Churches Board, and Curtiss DeYoung, CEO of the Minnesota Council of Churches.
Not every congregation may be ready to send a team to witness in the streets. However, I urge every congregation in the synod to include specific prayers or liturgies of repentance and commitment to address racism in their worship service on June 13 or June 20, the Sundays bracketing the June 17 observance. Resources for prayers and liturgies are found at https://www.elca.org/emanuelnine.
In addition, I invite individuals to commitment themselves to arduous, daily work to address racist attitudes, actions and policies in our own lives and institutions. To date, 215 persons have publicly pledged themselves to do so by signing a formal commitment. Read more about The Road Toward Racial Justice initiative and that personal pledge.
Six years ago, nine Christian saints were murdered in a church fellowship hall by a young white supremacist, who used their precious lives to make his own racist statement. In the days following, many family members of those who died stepped forward to witness to the redemptive and reconciling power of God. As a person of faith in Jesus Christ, I am not able to walk away from the impact of that contrast of welcoming strangers into our lives and the brutality of murder because of one’s race. I doubt that you can either. This June our actions and prayers, our worship and our witness announce to others where we stand. They also reaffirm the life-transforming impact of Christ at work in us amid the real challenges of this day.
Yours in Christ’s service,
Bishop Patricia Lull