St. Johns Parish Church Johns Island SC

The Feast of the Martyrs of Emanuel AME, Charleston, SC

A letter from  Rev. Dr. Gregory A. Snyder, SOSc, Rector St. John’s Parish Church, Johns Island, SC
Dear Fellow Image-Bearers of God,
     Today is a very sad anniversary.  And yet, we celebrate the life and witness of those nine precious disciples of Jesus Christ from Emanuel AME Church who were slain five years ago today at the hands of a self-avowed white supremacist.  My prayer still is that they may not have died in vain.  
     Even as I write this, marches and protests over the latest death of an African-American at the hands of law-enforcement continue unabated.  Each new week, it seems, brings another name to the fore: Rayshard Brooks, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and the list goes on.  This in the midst of a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic continuing to create fear, isolation, and death for over three months now.  These are indeed challenging times for all of us, and not just in the United States, but all over the world.  Still, we have trouble enough here at home.
     This issue of race has plagued our nation specifically for 400 years.  Growing up in the South in the late 1960s and 1970s, I can attest to the fact that progress has been made in my lifetime, and yet we still have “miles to go before I sleep.”  And it may be that, on this side of Heaven, there will be no final resolution.  Because, as Soviet dissident Alexander Solzhenitsyn has famously said, “The line between good and evil runs through every human heart.”  The Bible speaks uniquely to this issue, where we find that all human beings are caught up in this problem of sin.  Still, the Bible has stood for millennia as a beacon of hope for those who are enslaved, disenfranchised, or living on the margins of an unjust society.  
   From the very first chapter of the Bible, we learn that every human being, regardless of color, creed, size, IQ, age, physical disability, or religion is made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-28).  And it is our duty as followers of Jesus Christ to discover that unique gifting in every human being and unleash it for the good of this world and for the glory of the One who created it.  We cannot do this if we point fingers and vilify one side in this debate and then the other.  And we cannot do it when we do not treasure the potential contribution of every human being to the Kingdom of God.  Remember: Every human being is made in the Image of God Himself.  Every.  Human.  Being.
    But, we also know that in short order, that which was created “very good” descends into chaos (Genesis 3).  Our created nature that begins by walking with God in the cool of the day, all too soon becomes one of hiding, shame, and blame.   And such is the lot of every human being even to the present day.  But, we as Christians, are uniquely poised to offer a solution, the only true solution to this crisis….and His Name is Jesus.  We are all in need of a Savior, and He has already walked this earth and given His life that we might have new life in Him now and into eternity.  
    Jesus of Nazareth led the way in how we are to treat one another.  We are to treat the woman at the well (a Samaritan, a person of another race to Jesus), and the tax collector, and the prostitute, and the centurion all the same, and treasure their contribution to a just society.  Furthermore, we know that racial diversity is glorified by our Lord in Heaven,
9 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (Revelation 7:9-10)
And so, we must be about the business of racial reconciliation and healing, now, on this earth and at this time.  
   What is our Church doing?  A week ago Saturday, St. John’s Parish Church hosted a time of prayer and conversation outside of Walton Hall.  Because of the relationships and trust that have been built over many years due to Fishers of Men and Feeding of the Multitude, we were able to gather a group of Black and White church leaders for this sacred time.  Although I expected that the time would be spent mostly in conversation, our Black brothers and sisters wanted exclusively to pray for our nation and for the hearts of every individual citizen.  They recognize that the race problem begins as a sin problem.  It was a very moving time and we plan to continue these prayer services at St. John’s Parish Church, under the oaks, as a monthly event.  Pray about joining us next month (Saturday, July 4th at 9 am) for this time of prayer and conversation.
    What else can we do?  
1.     PRAY.  Pray for this nation.  Pray for our leaders.  Pray for our law enforcement officers.  Pray for revival and renewal in this country.  Pray that your heart would be changed and that you would be chosen by our Lord as a “laborer” to be sent out “into His harvest,” and that you would be a source of peace and reconciliation in this fear-filled and sin-sick world.
2.     MEDITATE.  Be honest with yourself.  Have the courage to ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you where your heart needs transformation as regards prejudice, whether it is toward Blacks, Asians, Hispanics, the wealthy, the poor, or those from another region of the country.  And then ask the Lord to begin to change your heart and remove that prejudice.  This is hard and enduring work.
3.     LISTEN.  Pray about and then invite a person of color to spend some time with you, possibly for a socially distanced lunch.  They may be somebody you have known all your life, but still you do not know their full story, their fears, their anger.  Ask them how they are feeling through all of this racial unrest and try to get to know their story at a deeper level.  
4.     BE LONG SUFFERING: HOLD YOUR TONGUE.  Please, stop saying, “Yes, it is a tragedy that this life was snuffed out, but….”  We need to stop using the conjunction “but.”  The loss of any life, either of the unborn or of the citizen in the street with an officer kneeling on his neck, is a tragedy.  Period.  End of sentence.  
5.     LEARN.  Spend some time studying the issue of race from both scriptural and societal (other than your own) viewpoints.  Recommend that your small group or bible study spend some time reading texts or watching podcasts that discuss racism and what we can do about it.  Some suggested resources are posted on our website and Facebook page.  To this end, my wife, Beth, and I will be leading a small group this Fall at St. John’s Parish Church in the study of racial reconciliation.  It is a very small beginning, but still a beginning.
6.     REACH OUT.  Seek to help those less fortunate than you (and possibly more vulnerable) in your community, which may include a person of color.  Offer to deliver food to them or help them with some other need.  Be a good neighbor.
7.     SPEAK OUT.  Speak out and possibly even gather in solidarity with others (our Archbishop, Foley Beach, did just that in Atlanta) for social justice and racial equality.  We worship a God who famously said, “But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (Amos 5:24). I pray that we all contribute to that biblical vision.
    These are just a few suggestions.  There are many others.  In the end, we can do no better than St. Paul’s own admonition to the Church at Philipi (Philippans 2:3-7):  3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,…

    In Christ’s Love and Obedience,
    Fr. Greg
    The Rev. Dr. Gregory A. Snyder, SOSc, Rector
    St. John’s Parish Church, Johns Island, SC

Resources

Esau McCaulley

Book Resouces

Reading While Black: African-American Biblical Interpretation as an Exercise in Hope by Esau McCaulley (available September 2020)
Divided By Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America by Michael Emerson and Christian Smith.
Heal Us Emmanuel: A Call for Racial Reconciliation, Representation, and Unity in the Church Editor, Doug Servern
Be the Bridge: Pursuing God’s Heart for Racial Reconciliation by Latasha Morrison

Video Resources

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