A Letter from Plymouth's Members, Council, Racial Justice Team & Mission & Service Board

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Caroline Dean
Caroline Dean signed this petition

Plymouth Congregational Church values the counsel and perspective of all our members. In ordinary circumstances this statement would have a formal vote of the congregation but COVID-19 prevents us from safely gathering for faithful discernment. And this statement supporting Black Lives is urgent.  Consequently, the Plymouth Church Council, Mission and Service Board and the Racial Justice Team affirm the following statement and invite Plymouth members to add their names as well.  Those who wish to affirm this statement please visit www.plymouthlawrence.com.  

The beauty of Plymouth Church is that there is space and grace for diversity and we celebrate that reality among us. We affirm “No matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey you are welcome here” at Plymouth Church.  In this spirit, Plymouth’s Church Council, Mission and Service Board and Racial Justice Team publicly write to the Lawrence Community and to other congregations. While all might not agree, we know that all are loved. 

Mayor Jennifer Ananda is calling Lawrence to wrestle with systemic racism and White supremacy. The Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee will be providing implicit bias training for criminal justice system staff.  Lawrence is hiring an Equity Officer. Plymouth has joined community partners to bring together an all-city intergenerational read on race and racism. These are just a few of the new, local efforts now emerging, and we applaud all of these efforts. 

In 1854, Plymouth formed amid the fight to end slavery and has remained a place of progressive Christianity. Plymouth belongs to the United Church of Christ, a denomination historically and vocally committed to justice. Even so, Plymouth -- like so many predominantly White churches -- has fallen far short in naming the sin of systemic racism and acknowledging the many ways the church has been a beneficiary of white privilege.  For too long we have been comfortable in our pews while our Black kindred and other communities of color have lived in the grip of systemic racism. Today, we join our voices to proclaim "Black Lives Matter, Black Lives Matter to God, and Black Lives Matter to Us, Plymouth Church."

To our White kindred: we have rested too long on tolerance, celebrated our “free state” history, and ignored the ugly parts of white supremacy deeply rooted in Lawrence. We have ignored or conveniently forgotten the economic inequities that continue to plague our city, the roots of which are the power structures of systemic racism at the very heart of this nation’s founding.  

Remember, Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote his Letter from the Birmingham Jail to eight White pastors who opposed his protest efforts in Alabama, critical of their complacency and hypocrisy; willing to agree in concept about equality, but unwilling to take action. May God forgive us if that is who we are today.  But can we forgive each other or ourselves if we remain silent? 

We must face these truths and act.

We will do the work needed in our predominantly White church to understand our personal stake in the sins of white privilege, white supremacy, and systemic racism. We will strive to be antiracist, collectively and individually. Professor Ibram X. Kendi writes, “There is really no in-between ‘not racist’ neutrality.”  Between racist and antiracist, we choose antiracist. 

We commit to unlearning and learning. There are many resources available; we’ve put a short list together for our community. 

We commit to showing up. Our Black and Indigenous neighbors along with other communities of color have been speaking, calling us to account and to bear witness. We see you and follow your lead. We know we will stumble, and we humbly accept accountability.

We commit to creating opportunities to challenge each other and grow. Our Racial Justice Team will be virtually offering the Let’s Talk: White Privilege course; sign up for their email list for notifications on this and other classes.

We commit to partnering. Like the city-wide book read planning underway, we know that true change comes from working together. We answered the local NAACP’s call to support establishing a memorial for the three lynching victims in Lawrence. To help, please follow the Lawrence Branch of the NAACP on Facebook or email lawrenceksnaacp@gmail.com. 

What’s next? We are listening and commit to work with others to uproot and dismantle the long-standing systems of oppression. 

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” May we know this hunger, feel this thirst, and be filled as justice rises up and rolls down, healing us all from the sins of racism and white supremacy.