Statement on Racism and Racial Tension 6/9/20

As elders of our church family it is our responsibility to shepherd the flock of God which is under our care. Part of the shepherd's role is to provide comfort, reassurance, guidance, and protection from enemies, those who would try to attack and devour the flock. Right now, we believe that those who call Foothills Fellowship their home church are probably feeling a wide range of emotions related to the killing of George Floyd, and the protests that have followed. You may feel anger over the killing of a man who had no weapon and who was not resisting the police. You may also feel anger over the way his life was taken from him. And you may feel anger more generally over the way black people have been treated unfairly and unjustly by law enforcement, or by our society generally. Some of you may feel fear as you contemplate what it will be like for you, as a person of color, to go to work, or to go shopping, or to go to a park, or to go anywhere. Some of you, who are white, may feel confusion, not knowing exactly what to say or do, or how and when you should say or do things.

 

George Floyd's death is just the most recent of the deaths of black men and women at the hands of either self-appointed vigilantes (as in the cases of Treyvon Martin and Ahmaud Arbery) or the police (as in the cases of Eric Garner, Breonna Taylor, and Michael Brown). Because of these events that have made the news, and because of many more (though less incendiary) overtly racist incidents that do not make the news, black people in our country live in fear of how they will be treated when they go out in public. It is not possible to list in this brief letter all the ways that black men and women suffer injustice at the hands of both law enforcement officers, and by the general public. Suffice it to say that if you ask a black person to tell you of the ways that they have been treated poorly simply because of their skin color, he or she will likely produce a long list.

 

When Jesus began his earthly ministry he stated his overall purpose by quoting the prophet Isaiah in Luke 4:18- 19: The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord 's favor. While there certainly have been some advances over the last 50 years for black people in terms of social status, employment, education, and other areas, Black Americans remain an oppressed minority in many respects. In particular, Black Americans are incarcerated at a rate that is 5 times higher than that of White Americans and the rate of Blacks who are killed in police shootings is double that of Whites.

 

We, the elders of Foothills, have been trying to listen to those in our congregation who are distressed by these events, particularly people of color. It is our desire to be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. Listening is one of the most important steps that any one of us can take. However, there is a time to speak, and it is our desire now to speak words that will provide comfort and assurance to those who are afflicted and guidance and direction for those who want to know how to move forward.

 

With humility and grace, we offer the following statements as a way to help us think about racism and racial tension on our land. By God's grace and mercy, we desire to be a community of faith where people of all races, cultures, ethnic backgrounds, and skin color will feel welcomed and nurtured and invited to participate and lead. Please read below:

 

• We believe that the killing of George Floyd was outrageous and savage since he was both unarmed and non-combative as he begged to breathe. He did not deserve to die, and his death has caused his family much grief, pain, and loss. We renounce the unnecessary use of deadly force by police officers, and by members of the general public, in trying to solve criminal and civil matters.

 

• We acknowledge that the large number of deaths of black men and women at the hands of law enforcement officers has led to widespread fear and anxiety among members of the black community. We are grieved by this and we want our black brothers and sisters to know that we stand with them and for them, and not against them.

 

• We acknowledge that there are people of color in our church family who are deeply affected by the recent events of George Floyd's killing, and the protests that have followed. We want you to know that we see you, and that we are aware that you have emotions that you are feeling and that you have stories that you could tell of how you have been treated unfairly and unjustly in our society.

 

• We want to invite our church family to feel completely welcome to express to the elder board the ways in which you have felt wounded by racism in our society and culture. We also recognize that you may feel wounded by things that have been said and done within our church community. We invite you to express those instances of pain and heartbreak to us via email, or text message, or phone call, or zoom call whenever you feel comfortable doing so.

 

• We call on those in our church family who are white to be willing to listen to our brothers and sisters of color… to hear their stories and to sympathize with the pain and heart break that they feel. We call on those in our community who are white to recognize that people of color face challenges on a daily basis that white people never have to face.

 

• While there is much to love about our country and history, there also is much in our history that requires repentance. We call on everyone in our church family to learn about, and acknowledge, the ways in which the history of our nation has had dark periods of oppression, genocide, racial prejudice, and horrible mistreatment of Blacks, Native Americans, Asian Americans, Latinos, and other peoples of color. We call upon each person in our church family to renounce racism and to make this land one that truly offers liberty and justice for all.

 

• God has declared all people worthy of love, respect, kindness, and forgiveness, regardless of any other factor. As his people we must demonstrate this attitude toward one another as well as those outside our immediate community. Only as we live out his grace can his healing and justice become dominant in our society.

 

As your elders we hope that these statements can provide comfort, support, and encouragement to you if you are feeling fearful and anxious about the days ahead. We also hope they can provide some guidance and direction for you if you are wondering what your next step might be. May God and his Word be a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path as we walk forward in faith. Whatever those steps may be, we implore you to act in light of the biblical mandate for unity among believers. We are called as brothers and sisters who share the same Father to be united with one another even when tensions are high, and the issues are difficult. We call on all of you to adhere to the biblical mandate laid down by the Apostle Paul in Romans 12:16-18: Live in harmony with one another. Do not be arrogant but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

 

Your Elders

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AN UPDATE FROM THE ELDERS 6/1/20

Hello Church Family!

I am so happy to tell you that we are planning to gather together for worship this month! On Sundays, June 14 and 28, we will be holding outdoor worship gatherings in our parking lot at 7PM. I've checked, and the parking lot will be shaded by then. Instead of trying to gather indoors where we will be very limited in how many can attend and what we can do, let's plan to gather outdoors - where the spread of COVID-19 is much less a threat, and let's worship together!

I will send you more information next week as we get closer to the time of our gathering, but here is some initial information about what this gathering will be like and what we plan to do to keep us as safe as possible:

1. The parking lot will be open at 6:30pm on the 14th and 28th. You will be greeted in your cars by parking attendants who will show you where to park. Parking spots will be available on the north end of the building and in the Noah's Ark parking lot. Spots are limited, so if possible, arrive closer to 6:30pm than 7pm. If you are able to walk a bit, you can always park around the east end of Lynnewood Park (where we have our church picnics) and walk up to our parking lot. That would really help. We will have an overflow parking plan developed by the time of our first gathering if we need it. The parking attendants will show you where to park if all of our spots are filled.

2. Please bring the following items with you: lawn chairs for your family, blankets for the ground if you're OK putting them down on asphalt, communion elements for everyone in your family who will take communion, hand sanitizer (we will also provide hand sanitizing stations), water for your family, and feel free to bring food to eat. This will be like a church picnic with no communal food and no mingling! :-(

3. We will have designated socially distanced seating areas for you when you arrive. There will be areas for one person, two people, and families. There will be a team of people who will help you find a spot. There will also be designated one-way walking areas as the middle of the parking lot will serve as a type of "hallway."

4. The state has made face masks mandatory when out in public. Please bring your masks and wear them when you arrive and are going to your seating area, but please know that because we will be outside and socially distanced, we will encourage you to take your masks off (if you feel comfortable doing so) during the worship service. If we were all indoors, we would ask that masks remain on, but since we're outdoors, it is much safer to remove them once we're settled in. We will even sing together! This is one of the reasons why we're meeting outdoors. Singing indoors is highly discouraged by the CDC, but outdoors, it is much safer to sing - so we will!

5. The building will be open for bathroom use. As my mom used to say to us kids, "If you can hold, hold it!" But if not, the bathrooms will be open for use. We ask that you wear your masks while inside and use hand sanitizer before entering the restroom and when you leave. Designated doors will be open for entering the building, and the less you touch anything inside, the better. And if possible, please limit the amount of people in the restroom at any given time to just a few people.

6. We will limit the service time to 60-70 minutes tops, and you will need to keep your family together in your allotted space at all times (unless you're taking them to the restroom). There will be no children's program, but there will be a "My Message" children's message during the service. Feel free to bring things for your kids to do, and don't worry about noisy kids! There will be plenty of noise from the traffic on Tramway, so please don't worry about loud children.

We are hoping that being outdoors will allow for more than the 40% of you who said you would return when we start meeting again. The CDC does warn people who are over 65 and those who have certain pre-existing health conditions to exercise extreme caution during the pandemic, but they do admit that being outdoors is much safer. If you feel sick or have a fever, please do not come. If you don't feel comfortable coming, then please don't. We will miss you, but we completely understand. We will record these parking lot services and make them available on-line the following Monday.

So, our service schedule for June will look like this:

Sunday, June 7
On-line service only. Watch at 10AM on Sunday if you can so that we can worship "together."

Sunday, June 14
Church in the Parking Lot service at 7PM. It will be available online the following Monday for those who don't come.

Sunday, June 21
On-line service only. Watch at 10AM on Sunday if you can so that we can worship "together."

Sunday, June 28
Church in the Parking Lot service at 7PM. It will be available online the following Monday for those who don't come.

Church in the Parking Lot is an experiment - and of course, it's weather permitting. But, it's the best way we can think of right now to worship together. We'll see how it goes. If it works well, we may continue it into July. If it doesn't work well, we'll come up with a new plan for July. I'll send out more information next week, but we wanted you know what our plans are for the month of June. Please email me or the elders if you have any questions or concerns. I can't wait to finally see you again!

Pastor Mike and the Elders

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