Do You Want to Be Well?
Beloved in Christ,
George Floyd was murdered on the streets of Minneapolis two years ago today. As a bishop whose ministry began in its immediate aftermath, as a global protest movement was surging in its wake, I feel like I should have words to say in this somber moment. I confess that, today, I’m coming up short. I have spoken or written so many, many words since Floyd’s death, as have many other lay and ordained leaders around our diocese and beyond. Thousands of people around the Episcopal Church have engaged resources like Sacred Ground to help awaken us to the full depths of systemic racism and its legacy. Here in Minnesota, a group of deeply faithful Episcopalians is working to chart the course of the steady and long work that will need to be central to the rest of our lives. All around, in these last two years there has been much talking, much learning, much conversation.
And yet, the sickness keeps showing up. Several more black, brown, Indigenous and other people of color have been killed by police right here in Minnesota over the past two years, and just two weeks ago, there was yet another mass shooting, this time in Buffalo, made possible by the unholy alliance of racism and easy access to guns. It’s easy to look around at all of this and despair. As I was writing this, sitting with the challenge of finding words where there are none left to say, news broke of the shooting at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas. It’s hard to look around at all of this and do anything but despair. What can we do in the face of it all?
The leader I turn to most often to understand the work before us is Dr. Catherine Meeks, Director of the Absalom Jones Center for Racial Healing in Atlanta. It has been an immense gift to spend time with her in the past two years, and her wisdom has fundamentally changed me. The first question I hear her ask again and again when talking about the work of racial justice and healing is: “Do you want to get well?” Racism is a sickness that infects every institution of our nation, every practice we engage, every encounter we have, and she understands that sickness begins in each of our hearts. No matter what our background, our identity, or our experience, racial healing is first about our own desire to heal and get well, and reaching out to God for the healing only God can give.
Dr. Meeks has also taught me that the work of racial justice and healing is not some add-on to being a disciple of Jesus, it is the work of being a disciple of Jesus. So our call on the second anniversary of Floyd’s murder is the same as our call always is in the face of the world’s sinfulness and brokenness. We lament: we lift our cries of sadness and rage to the God of justice. We confess: we interrogate the practices and structures of the institutions we lead or belong to, and we examine our own hearts. We pray: we offer the brokenness of the world, and of our own hearts, over to God’s power again, and again, and again. We bear witness: we form loving kinship across all the lines of difference we encounter, we build little pieces of God’s dream of Beloved Community wherever we happen to be planted.
Lament, confession, prayer, witness. That is the response the people of God are always, in all times and all places, called to make in the face of the world’s evil. The world won’t be fixed by our actions; that can only be fully done by the full coming of God’s Kingdom. But it matters, profoundly, that a community stands in the midst of it all and points to that perfect reign, building small glimpses of what it might look like. That’s our work, beloved, and it all starts with Catherine’s perfect, and perfectly faithful question: Do you want to get well?
Grace and peace,
The Right Reverend Craig Loya
Episcopal Church in Minnesota