An Open Letter from Rev. Clarence, 6/6/20: An R-Rated Sermon

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Dear Parishioners and Friends of St. James,

As you have wished and as I have pledged to you during these times of personal distancing as mandated by our Bishop due to COVID-19, I attach my weekly reflections on the lessons presented to us in our lectionary. When that is not possible, as a wily cleric and as taught in theological school, I scurry to find some scriptural support for those reflections. Usually, finding scriptural backing for my thoughts poses no difficulty for, if the Bible is anything, holy or not, it is a compilation of humans’ attempt to understand themselves and their place in the universe. This week, I have not had to scurry or apply any underhand skill to justify what I have attached for your contemplation.

Like many, if not all of you, I have followed events unfolding in our nation, although I confess that I was completely unaware of protests, until a friend from St. Louis called to ask my opinion. You see, I do not have a TV. As I have watched now on my computer as events unfold, I confess to you that I am not surprised. I am saddened by the death of Mr. George Floyd at the hands of an instrument of the law. But, I am not surprised. I am gladdened that fellow citizens of our nation have attempted to give voice to their grievances and to stand in solidarity with each other in order to petition redress for grievances too long ignored. I am saddened by those who, many under cloak of darkness, have resorted to violence in order to profit personally during such assemblies. But, I am not surprised.

Let me state clearly and simply: Under no circumstance have I ever condoned, and nor do I now condone, looting, burning, and destruction of property, or a further taking of human life as a means to indicate displeasure and disagreement. It is my sincere and unwavering opinion that such violence detracts from and perhaps even threatens to derail legitimate and legal expressions of grievances, even if the Boston Tea Party of revolutionary days is held up as a prime example of [the legitimization of the destruction of property].

I report to you that I disobeyed the mandate to shelter in place except for essential needs outside my house. Such an essential moment presented itself this week. Together with friends and acquaintances from my immediate neighborhood in Watertown, joined by their and my adult children, I stood, but could not kneel due to two hip replacements, in solidarity this week with approximately 500 denizens of the Town of Watertown who had assembled in Watertown Square in order to voice silently our condolence, first to the family of Mr. George Floyd but also to our consternation at past and present systemic racism that eats at the soul of our nation. No speeches were given. Children and teenagers and adults held aloft placards and signs. Fathers and mothers held infants. We observed social distancing, which almost guaranteed silence. We departed after 1.5 hours, in silence. All, so I am convinced, are aware that, as with COVID-19, we must be diligent in our personal behavior so that the virus of racism can be not only tempered but, in our life time, eradicated but especially for the sake of our children and our children’s chLibertyildren.

The sermon [that will be posted tomorrow] is, all my usual disclaimers aside, long, much longer than I would speak if we were permitted in-person worship. I have, in the subject line of this email to you, indicated that it is a somber reflection. These are sobering times. As always, I am available to speak with you, now via telephone as our Coffee Hour is not a possibility. Should you desire help in formulating your prayers for our nation, you may look to our Book of Common Prayer, beginning page 820, for Prayers for National Life and Prayers for the Social Order, two of which I share now with you:

Grant, O God, that your holy and life-giving Spirit may so move every human heart, and especially the hearts of the people of this land, that barriers which divide us may crumble, suspicions disappear, and hatreds cease; that our divisions being healed, we may live in justice and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

O God, you have bound us together in a common life. Help us in the midst of our struggles for justice and truth, to confront one another without hatred or bitterness, and to work together with mutual forbearance and respect; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

And may the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God; and may the blessing of God Almighty, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit be with you and those whom you love this day and for evermore. Amen.

Your humble fellow traveler in The Way,