Listening To Voices Not Like Ours

Back on September 22, in response to the shooting death of Keith Lamott Scott and subsequent protests in Uptown, Grace and I wrote a letter to the congregation that concluded with a promise to find ways our church can partner with others, “to educate ourselves on issues of racial division and injustice, with the goal of bringing peace and healing to our city and to those grieving over injustice.”

As I mentioned in my October 30 sermon, it is essential as people of faith that we answer the call to listen to voices not like ours, in fulfillment of Christ’s command to “love one another.”  For many of us, this requires some level of intentionality.  Most of us live in south Charlotte, work in south Charlotte, send our kids to school in south Charlotte, do our grocery-shopping in south Charlotte, and so on.  And south Charlotte, as we know, is overwhelmingly populated with people who look a lot like us.

Which is why I’m pleased to share three ways our congregation is seeking to fulfill the calling to listen to other voices not like ours – some long-time initiatives we’re giving a boost, some relatively new relationships, and a brand-new opportunity as well.

First, thanks to some pioneers in our congregation, our church has a long-standing relationship with Nations Ford Elementary School, an overwhelmingly minority school in a community that reflects the same.  Our Mission and Outreach Ministry Team is making a commitment to deepen our partnership in ways that promise to be transformative for both.  Be on the lookout for ways you can be part of this.

Second, last January Darryl Gaston, pastor at Smallwood Presbyterian Church in the West End, and I had lunch to talk about our two churches beginning a relationship with each other.  Since then, around six members from each church have healthcarewell pharmacy met four times over dinner and fellowship.  Our contingency consists of David Hood, Sarah Henry, Neal Pickett, Sarah Mullis, Grace and myself.  We are allowing the Spirit to guide us forward as this relationship grows and blossoms, discerning what next steps might be.  Like Nations Ford, stay tuned.

Third, about a dozen Presbyterian pastors from various churches in Uptown and surrounding areas (including Trinity) have been meeting since the protests to discuss concrete steps to bring communities together for healing.  One of the things we’ve planned is a number of screenings of a documentary titled, “Colorblind: Rethinking Race,” with small group conversation to follow.  Trinity will host one of the screenings on Monday, December 5, at 6:30 p.m., in our Fellowship Hall (more information can be found on the next page). Please consider joining us that evening.

There are two more ways you can respond individually, ways I am doing myself.  First, I commend to you some books that I have found helpful:

  • Sorting Out The New South City: Race, Class and Urban Development In Charlotte by Thomas W. Hanchett. Available on Amazon and the Levine Museum of the New South.
  • Let There Be Light: Exploring How Charlotte’s Historic West End Is Shaping a New South by Ron Stodghill. Kindle edition available on Amazon; hard copy at Johnson C. Smith Bookstore.
  • The Dream Long Deferred: The Landmark Struggle for Desegregation in Charlotte, NC by Frye Gaillard. Available on Amazon and the Levine Museum of the New South.
  • Waking Up White (And Finding Myself In The Story Of Race) by Debby Irving.  This book has been recommended to all PCUSA church members by our co-moderators Jan Edminston (our 2017 Montreat Church Retreat speaker) and Tawnya Denise Anderson. Available on Amazon.

And second, join me in engaging in weekly “excursions” out of our normal “arena” to parts of town we don’t usually frequent.  And when there, shop in grocery stores, grab a cup of coffee and start a conversation in coffee houses, take a walk in neighborhoods and on greenways.  These can be both informative and fun!

This is important work we are called to.  For if all we do as citizens, as people of faith, is surround ourselves with people who look, think, talk, act and move in the world like us, we can never hope to fully understand or sympathize with the perspectives of “the other.”  More to the point, “the other” remains “the other.”

Let us listen and give thanks to God for what we hear!

Your pastor and friend,

Steve