How long, O God?” the psalmist cries,

a cry we make our own,

for we are lost, alone, afraid,

and far away from home.

ELW 698

Dear Friends in Christ,

In his book, A Passion for the Possible, the Rev. William Sloane Coffin argues about an earlier time of unrest that “good patriots are those who carry on a lover’s quarrel with their country, a reflection of God’s eternal lover’s quarrel with the entire world.” That language comes to mind as I wrestle with the challenge of addressing racism within my own family. The awareness that conversations about racism and privilege almost always lead to a quarrel has too often led me to complacency. I need reminding that what Coffin calls “a lover’s quarrel,” is anything but trivial, seeks the common good, and is always grounded in God’s own love for creation.

In her sermon for Holy Trinity Sunday, Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton reminds “we have God’s name written upon us.” That we have been baptized into God’s redeeming relationship puts a claim on us. She insists that only when we, the white majority, come to see and experience the pain and suffering of persons of color as pain and suffering in our own soul, will we emerge from the kind of silence that seeks to keep a peace that is illusory in that it only applies to some.

For the sake of the whole human family we need to engage the family we know as “church.” To help us help each other in this work, we are launching the Southeastern Iowa Synod Anti-Racism Network. Here you will find resources for listening and learning that we hope will lead to action. Here you will find the opportunity to engage others in the work for justice. Here you will find the chance to make this network our own shared space for coming together online and for setting the stage for being together in-person. The network is for anyone and everyone among us - pastors, deacons, church professionals, and lay members. Please help us extend the invitation to be part of this.

Of course, this is not enough. But it is yet one more beginning that seeks to join our voices to the voices of those who live with a fear that few of us have known. One more beginning that acknowledges our need for forgiveness and that incites us to lean into the truth that when anyone suffers and we fail to act, we are all far away from home.

I am grateful for those of you who join in peaceful protest. I am grateful for those who respond pastorally to members and friends who are discomforted by the quarrel that is unfolding, even as we seek justice for those whose lives are at stake. Again, this is anything but trivial. This is hard work, grounded in God’s own love for creation.

The peace of Christ, who gives us the strength and courage to act, is with you,

Bishop Michael L. Burk

P.S. While social distancing and working from home is still the norm, I hope you will watch a movie or a television series that tells the story that is more our own than we are accustomed to admitting. The movies, “Just Mercy” and “Selma,” are steaming free on a number of online platforms. The series, “When They See Us,” is currently available on Netflix. There are many other helpful options. If you are tempted to feel guilty stepping away from work for screen time (or better yet, for reading these or related books), I assure you that right now, this is part of the work.