The Gift of Presence
For nearly two weeks, those of us in the Saint Paul Area Synod have been blessed by the presence of ou[...]
I have been on a journey for the last twenty months or so. It started in July of 2016 when Philando Castile was shot and killed by a police officer within the walls of our synod territory. Honestly, and a bit sheepishly, it wasn’t the shooting that started this journey and woke me up to my own privilege of being a white male and truly what that meant. It wasn’t the shooting that called me out for my inaction and sin of silence; It was actually my daughter. Her ten-year-old worldview and response to this tragedy stirred me from my complacency and convicted me of my need to rise up. To stand up. To speak out and to actually begin to be part of something that worked for change. My daughter, through her own tear-filled eyes at the understanding of losing a loved one for no reason other than the color of his skin told me, “Dad, this isn’t okay, we need to do something.” She then spoke at the Governor’s Mansion during the occupation, proclaiming that people shouldn’t be treated differently or die because they are black. "It’s not okay," she said with confidence while the world paused to listen to her. She was right. She got it. I hadn’t. Yes, I was upset. I was angry. But I wasn’t about to speak out. Then and there I decided I must.
Since that moment I have been trying to find my footing in the work of racial justice that at times seems overwhelming and even impossible. But then hope happens. Congregations, individuals, and the synod working together to speak out—working together to seek and demand change—to seek and demand that all people are loved and welcomed and treated the same.
In January, this journey of mine took me to Atlanta over Martin Luther King Jr. weekend to explore racial justice, civil rights, and how we are called to respond today to the injustice that continues around us. While I was excited when we first began planning this experience, the reality of what it was is truly remarkable. To learn together with six other people who were all on a journey too was simply life-changing. I don’t use that word lightly—it truly changed my life in how it demanded me to reconsider all that I do. Do I work actively for justice for those that face injustice on a daily basis? Do I speak out? Or, do I remain silent? Honestly, normally it is the latter. And I need to do more. And I pledge to do more.
While the trip was filled with amazing experiences and visits, as you have hopefully read in the other blogs, what sticks out to me the most is the time we spent in deep discussion around those experiences, the films we watched, and the reading we did. It was in those honest conversations that my world turned. Authentic, raw, open conversation that allowed us each to wrestle deeply with our own journey while the backdrop of the civil rights movement and heroes like Dr. King and Rep. John Lewis provided a necessary reminder at how far we have come but also how far we have still to go.
Finally, I know I must do more. My journey is not over and has actually just begun. I am thankful for that. I am also thankful for the 6 people who travelled with me on this part of the journey and who loved me where I am at but also challenged me and pushed me to keep going.
The Rev. Justin Grimm
Director for Evangelical Mission
Assistant to the Bishop for Next Generation Ministries