Lift every voice and sing, ‘til earth and heaven ring,
ring with the harmonies of liberty.
Let our rejoicing rise high as the listening skies,
let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us.
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us.
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun, let us march on ‘til victory is won.
Since watching the events unfolding in Charleston, South Carolina on Wednesday, June 16th, I have vacillated between disbelief and anger and tears and feeling sick to my stomach trying to accept what the news was saying was true. As our brothers and sisters gathered together to study and pray on Wednesday evening, they were killed in their church – a place that should mean safety and sanctuary for all – a place where the peace of Christ surpasses all else. But that is not what happened.
We have heard and seen the news stories and the pieces of the story that have come to light since the shooting. We have watched as family members forgave the Dylann Roof. We have watched as peaceful demonstrations have gone through the entire city of Charleston, from one side of the Ravenel Bridge to the other. We have watched as those who died have been commended to God and now rest safe from fear. We have watched as thousands have come together to sing about God’s power and to sing defiant alleluias in the face of hatred.
My fear is that the events of Charleston have already faded into our memory, becoming harder and harder to recall and become impassioned to the point of action. Charleston, South Carolina is not a separate place, where racism and hatred run deeper and more volatile than anywhere else in the country. This could happen anywhere. The riots we have seen in Ferguson, Madison, and Baltimore show that racism is a sin that runs deep within the makeup of who we are as a country.
Can we fix this, on our own? Absolutely not. We cannot undo what has been a part of our country for centuries. We cannot undo pain and injustice. But, we can confess the ways we have contributed to its continuation, in large ways and small ways. This is not just about Charleston; this is about all of us. We sin against our brothers and sisters daily, in ways we know and in ways we don’t intend. And so, we begin the process of reconciliation by confessing to God and to one another. In God’s mercy, we will be forgiven and are sent out to begin the process of reconciling with our brothers and sisters. This is work that will not be completed in any of our lifetimes, but it is work we must begin if there is to be any progress made. Let us march on, toward the future of a reconciled world, together.