How do we navigate the tensions between history, present, and future?

Dear President Trump,

The UCC church I attend is in downtown Seattle and we use an underground parking garage on Sunday mornings. To get to the main part of the church from the garage there is a long passageway that steadily slopes up to the stairwell and elevator. Along the left hand wall is a series of about 30 old pictures loosely tracing the history of the church; some are pictures of the original building but most are pictures of people. Yesterday as I was leaving to get my car I saw a woman about my age looking at the pictures. She was looking at the pictures and trying to imagine being a person of color coming in through the garage and seeing no one like themselves in any of the pictures. She’s right. Until you get about halfway up the ramp where there is a picture of a group of Japanese parishioners every other person in every picture is white (and every woman and girl is wearing a skirt or dress). After the picture of Japanese people, it goes right back to all white all the way to the elevator.

We talked about what we imagine to be the emotional and intellectual impact of making one’s way up that ramp if you can’t find anyone who looks like you. We talked about possible remedies and as we floated different ideas, the challenges of simultaneously acknowledging and honoring our past and bringing our present and desired future more squarely in focus was immediately apparent. Our congregation has a strong history of progressive social action and while we have been able to rally around major issues like homelessness and mental illness, we’ve been lurching fitfully and uncomfortably into the 21st century. We continue to be a very white congregation and we are struggling to recognize white privilege and systemic racism. Although it’s unclear exactly why, no small number has peeled off and found other faith communities or has joined the swelling ranks of the “nones.” But this is a conversation we as a congregation need to have as we step back and try and do a better job of walking the walk, including into the church. It will raise hard, tender issues of different sorts for different ones of us. And I think we will come through on the other side the better for it. We all need blessings as we grapple with the tensions between history, present, and future so you are wrapped in with the rest of us again.

May we all be safe.
May we all be happy.
May we all be healthy.
May our lives unfold and intersect peacefully.

Tracy Simpson

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