Trinity Episcopal Church
555 Palisades Ave,
Cliffside Park, NJ 07010
October 3, 2020
A Statement on Racism from the Clergy of the Episcopal Diocese of
צדק צדק תרדף
Justice, justice, you shall pursue.
These words appeared on a framed print in the office of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg who died on September 18. The failure of charges to be brought against the police officers who murdered Breonna Taylor as she slept in her home in Louisville last March is a clear indication that justice has, once again, been denied a Black person in this country.
We, the members of the clergy in the Episcopal Diocese of Newark, believe that our faith requires us to stand on the side of the marginalized and the oppressed, to respond to injustice when it occurs, and to relentlessly work to eradicate the racism that plagues our country.
The highly publicized killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd, and the disproportionate number of Black persons killed at the hands of police, reveal a system that is unable to heal itself, unable to carry out its responsibility to serve all people with equal justice and dignity.
We believe our Christian faith calls us to meet this moment, and that in order to do that, each one of us must engage in a practice of prayerful discernment to uncover and repent of the racism we all harbor within our minds and hearts. We call on those of other faith traditions or no tradition at all to join us in this act of repentance.
We believe that fewer resources are needed to militarize police departments and more resources must be devoted to community services, including social workers and public health personnel, affordable housing and first-rate schools.
We say with one voice that racism is a sin, that Black Lives Matter, and that we are committed to ensuring the rights to safety at home, when out for a jog, or going about the business of daily life for those who currently are treated with suspicion because of the color of their skin. All of these privileges that white people mindlessly and effortlessly enjoy must be equally and fully available to all of our neighbors.
We follow the One who stood with the powerless and weak against the might of empire, and we have all promised in our baptism to “strive for justice and peace” among all people. We promise to use our voices, our dollars, our votes, and our bodies to prevent the continued violence against Black people in this country, and to create a more just society where we all may flourish.
Advent means arrival. Ever since human beings have looked up to the starry skies, they have longed for the arrival of a child to bring us a better future. All of us share this deep longing. The four weeks of Advent give it a Christian expression.
- Hail and blessed be the hour and moment
- In which the Son of God was born of the
- Most pure Virgin Mary,
- At midnight, in Bethlehem,
- In the piercing cold.
- In that hour vouchsafe, I beseech Thee
- O my God, to hear my prayer, and
- grant my desires, through the merits of
- Our Lord Jesus Christ and of His
- Blessed Mother. Amen
Want to Get Into the Christmas Spirit? Face the Darkness
How I fell in love with the season of Advent.
By Tish Harrison Warren
As darkness lengthens in late fall, we begin to see the signs of the season — advertisements with giant red bows atop new cars, Christmas music blasting everywhere, the heightened pace of holiday hustle and bustle, lights and garlands speckling every corner of the city.
But inside many church buildings, this time of year looks different. There, we find a countercultural sparseness. The altar is covered in purple, the color of both royalty and repentance. There’s a slowing down, a silent stillness. The music turns to minor keys and becomes contemplative, even mournful. The Scripture readings are apocalyptic and trippy, strikingly short on sweet tales of babies, little lambs and Christmas stars. In this small space, Christmas season has not yet begun. The church waits in Advent.
In the church calendar, every period of celebration is preceded by a time of preparation. Historically, Advent, the liturgical season that begins four Sundays before Christmas Day, is a way to prepare our hearts (and minds and souls) for Christmas. For Christians, Christmas is a celebration of Jesus’ birth — that light has come into darkness and, as the Gospel of John says, “the darkness could not overcome it.” But Advent bids us first to pause and to look, with complete honesty, at that darkness.
To practice Advent is to lean into an almost cosmic ache: our deep, wordless desire for things to be made right and the incompleteness we find in the meantime. We dwell in a world still racked with conflict, violence, suffering, darkness. Advent holds space for our grief, and it reminds us that all of us, in one way or another, are not only wounded by the evil in the world but are also wielders of it, contributing our own moments of unkindness or impatience or selfishness.
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I’m well aware that for most Americans, Christmas has less to do with contemplating the incarnation of Jesus than celebrating friends, family, reindeer and Black Friday sales. Even among observant Christians, the holiday season has often been flattened into a sentimental call to warm religious feelings (if not a charged yet pointless argument over “Happy Holidays” versus “Merry Christmas”). Still, I think Advent offers wisdom to the wider world. It reminds us that joy is trivialized if we do not first intentionally acknowledge the pain and wreckage of the world.
G.K. Chesterton wrote that original sin is the “only part of Christian theology which can really be proved.” The believer and atheist alike can agree that there is an undeniable brokenness to the world, a sickness that needs remedy. Whether we assign blame to human sinfulness, a political party, corporate greed, ignorance, tribalism or nationalism (or some of each), we can admit that things are not as they should be — or at least, not as we wish they were.
I did not grow up observing Advent or, for that matter, knowing what it was. Like many Americans, my family began celebrating Christmas the day after Thanksgiving. When I started attending an Anglican church in my late 20s, Advent drew me in. With its quiet beauty and doleful hymns, this season made intuitive emotional sense to me.
American culture insists that we run at breathless pace from sugar-laced celebration to celebration — three months of Christmas to the Super Bowl, Mardi Gras, Valentine’s Day, Cinco de Mayo, Fourth of July, and on and on. We suffer from a collective consumerist mania that demands we remain optimistic, shiny, happy and having fun, fun, fun.
But life isn’t a Disney Cruise. The tyranny of relentless mandatory celebration leaves us exhausted and often, ironically, feeling emptier. Many of us suffer from “holiday blues,” and I wonder whether this phenomenon is made worse by the incessant demand for cheer — the collective lie that through enough work and positivity, we can perfect our lives and our world. anesthesia from pain as much as anything else. We need collective space, as a society, to grieve — to look long and hard at what is cracked and fractured in our world and in our lives. Only then can celebration become deep, rich and resonant, not as a saccharine act of delusion but as a defiant act of hope.-Ms. Warren is a priest in the Anglican Church in North America and author of “Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life.”
Blessed are the agnostics. Blessed are they who doubt. Blessed are those who have nothing to offer. Blessed are the preschoolers who cut in line at communion. Blessed are the poor in spirit. You are of heaven and Jesus blesses you.
Blessed are those whom no one else notices. The kids who sit alone at middle-school lunch tables. The laundry guys at the hospital. The sex workers and the night-shift street sweepers. The closeted. The teens who have to figure out ways to hide the new cuts on their arms. Blessed are the meek. You are of heaven and Jesus blesses you.
Blessed are they who have loved enough to know what loss feels like. Blessed are the mothers of the miscarried. Blessed are they who can’t fall apart because they have to keep it together for everyone else. Blessed are those who “still aren’t over it yet.” Blessed are those who mourn. You are of heaven and Jesus blesses you.
I imagine Jesus standing here blessing us because that is our Lord’s nature. This Jesus cried at his friend’s tomb, turned the other cheek, and forgave those who hung him on a cross. He was God’s Beatitude— God’s blessing to the weak in a world that admires only the strong.
Jesus invites us into a story bigger than ourselves and our imaginations, yet we all get to tell that story with the scandalous particularity of this moment and this place. We are storytelling creatures because we are fashioned in the image of a storytelling God. May we never neglect that gift. May we never lose our love for telling the story. Amen
(Benediction delivered by Nadia Bolz-Weber at the funeral of Rachel Held Evans last year.)