In the aftermath of events in Ferguson, Mo., the bishops of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts issued the following message on Dec. 2, 2014, calling for prayer, dialogue and renewed dedication to issues of racial equity and justice:
Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come among us; and because we are sorely hindered by our sins, let your bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver us; through Jesus Christ our Lord. [Book of Common Prayer, page 212]
This Advent prayer describes our Advent yearning: that God’s grace would enter our broken world with renewed power to deliver us from those ways in which we are “sorely hindered by our sins.”
The continuing legacy of racism and a culture of gun violence are among those sins by which we are sorely hindered. The toxic combination of the two has been made manifest most recently in the death of an unarmed man on a Ferguson street, another unarmed man in a New York stairwell, and a 12-year-old boy on a Cleveland playground.
The tragedy of such deaths and the nationwide response to last week’s grand jury decision in the Michael Brown case, including protests here in Boston, have highlighted our continuing racial divisions. Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has suggested that this tragedy and its aftermath could have a redemptive quality “if it continues to challenge us to address our divisions and the injustices in this nation that are far more than skin deep.”
As your bishops, we call for prayer, dialogue, and renewed dedication to issues of racial equity and justice. Among avenues for such response are the resources provided by the Episcopal Church for dialogue in our churches, available here: http://www.episcopalchurch.org/page/talking-about-ferguson-our-congregations.
As members of Bishops United Against Gun Violence, we also commend to you the observance of the national Gun Violence Prevention Sabbath on Sunday, Dec. 14, the second anniversary of the Newtown tragedy. Resources for Gun Violence Prevention Sabbath can be found here: http://bishopsagainstgunviolence.org. Local vigils are posted as we become aware of them and can be viewed at http://www.diomass.org/events/upcoming. Our diocese's B-PEACE campaign and Antiracism Ministry Team are additional resources to us locally.
The dignity and sacred nature of human life is at the heart of the Incarnation which this season prepares us to celebrate. May God grant us the grace, wisdom, and courage to see that Incarnation in all its manifestations.
Faithfully in Christ,
The Rt. Rev. Alan M. Gates, Bishop
The Rt. Rev. Gayle E. Harris, Bishop Suffragan