Dear Grace and St Peter’s,
It has been another week of strong impressions even if events have been somewhat less dramatic than those of last week.
On Sunday, a rally for justice took place at Hamden’s Memorial Town Hall. The peaceful protest was welcomed and attended by Mayor Leng and Police Chief Cappiello. Rally speakers made impassioned, yet certainly not unreasonable, calls for equitable civic policies, police reform, and an end to racial bias and discrimination.
Grace and St Peter’s Church was beautifully present. I put the large wooden cross back up in the front yard after having taken it down just a few days earlier after Pentecost. Thanks to Chloe and Helen Barajas, a homemade “Love One Another” sign hung from it. “Black Lives Matter” and “Peace and Love” signs were affixed to the red doors. (Check out our Facebook page for photos.) About a dozen of us showed up for the rally. With Joe Mackay and John Cerretelli doing much of the setting up and oversight, we gave out water, allowed people to rest on our lawn, greeted rally attendees, and even provided first aid to a young man with a scraped knee. Just being ourselves, in the place where we are, we were Christ’s body—the Church. We did not cry or lift up our voices in the streets (though there may come a time for that); we did not grow faint or become discouraged; and, in our quiet, faithful way, we were a powerful voice for justice in Hamden, around the country and everywhere on the earth (see Isaiah 42:2-4).
For a couple of years, I have been resisting reading any of the myriad books that have come out recently on the subject of “whiteness.” Waking up White by Debby Irving and White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo are two titles that come to mind. Through my own experience and reflection, and with the help of the anti-racism workshop I took as preparation for my reception into the Episcopal Church in Connecticut, I figured I had a pretty good handle on my own biases and on the centuries-old structural discrimination that is woven into the fabric of American life. But, a few days ago in wondering with others how our community might further contribute to interracial healing, I both ordered White Fragility and started reading Waking Up White, which Pam conveniently had on her iPad.
What a great book! Even if, like me, you think you have a good idea of how race plays out in your personal life and the life of our community, this is a book worth reading. Many of us—of all skin tones and backgrounds—will find personal connections with the New England author and the stories she tells. Her narrative of self-discovery rings true because we and our families have lived the same challenging journey. When I’m done with Waking Up White, I will give White Fragility a read. Then, I hope to take up one of those two titles as the basis for community discussion.
Are there other books from other perspectives that you would like to suggest? We left off our “Seeing Beyond Difference: Jesus’ Kingship of Kinship” discussion several weeks ago due to Covid-19 restrictions. This seems like a good time to pick it up again.
Gretchen Pritchard has picked another great book for the current session of the Faith Study Group—Manna and Mercy by Daniel Erlander. This is a delightful and infinitely understandable summary of the biblical narrative and biblical themes ... with hand-drawn pictures, too! Read this book and you will never again be confused about what the Bible is about. Even if you don’t take part in the Faith Study Group—though that would be great if you do—you will not regret asking Gretchen to order a copy for you. Send her an email or send a note to the parish office.
Bishop Jim Curry and I spent much of today at the Hamden Police Department destroying the guns that had been turned into the town gun buyback a few months ago. We had a very successful day, dismantling 80 long guns and, thereby, creating stock for dozens of Swords Into Plowshares gardening tools, jewelry items and musical instruments.
The road to getting those guns dismantled was not, however, without its bumps. We were trying to use two power drop saws simultaneously and the electric circuits in the police garage were not happy. First, it was just our power strip that kept turning off. But, we then thought we might do better to plug each saw directly into the main power source. That only expanded our problem as the entire garage’s electric circuit breaker was tripped.
Regrettably, this looked like the end of our project for the day, except that the police on hand went far, far out of their way to be helpful—tracking down the circuit breaker, testing outlets for power, and finally calling the station electrician. Thanks to their attention and aid, we got ourselves back in business by plugging one of our saws into a separate circuit on the shed where the police motorcycles are stored. Thank you HPD!
The human race is so full of kind, generous, passionate, helpful, thoughtful, creative, honest, caring, faithful, hopeful, loving people. Joining our energies, efforts and prayers together, we really can make the world a better place for everyone. And the Church—the whole Church and our humble branch thereof—is so perfectly situated to be a catalyst for that change. We are in the center of town, bearing precisely a message of generous, thoughtful help, creativity, care, faith, hope and love. Just as we did last Sunday at the rally for justice, all we have to do is be ourselves where we are.