25 Questions from a South Minneapolis Pastor During the George Floyd Uprising | Forum for Theological Exploration

25 Questions from a South Minneapolis Pastor During the George Floyd Uprising

By: Tyler Sit
June 05, 2020

For us, we discovered responses to almost all of these questions by doing what the Forum for Theological Exploration does—convene people.

The police murdered George Floyd in the same neighborhood as my church, New City Church. Many pastors have reached out to me asking how they can help, and lately, my most common response has been to start having conversations with your own people, because if this hasn’t happened in your neighborhood already, it certainly can.

Here are 25 questions that I have faced in the past seven days—my hope in passing them on is that they might inspire conversations in your own context:

  1. What will you do when a Black person is murdered by the police in your neighborhood?
  2. What do you tell your family as you prepare and dedicate every waking hour to responding to this situation?
  3. How will you override the overwhelming impulse to move towards solutions and instead allow for time to mourn?
  4. When the outpouring of white guilt shows up, how will you translate that to meaningful solidarity?
  5. How will you prepare your community to organize with each other and not rely on one single leader?
  6. When a white woman sends you a pleading message that says, “Am I doing enough??” how will you pastorally tell her that this a great question to field with other white people who, with practice, will recognize that the focus of the discourse must not be white feelings but rather justice for Black lives?
  7. What songs will you sing when you are on the streets with your community?
  8. How will you use your networks to channel funds to the places doing the most important work?
  9. How will you express gratitude when total strangers of other faiths donate to your church?
  10. How do you make sure that well-intentioned people are not “done dealing with racism” now that they’ve donated to you?
  11. When you hear from credible sources that white supremacists are swarming in from other states to sow mayhem by burning down post offices, libraries, and Black-owned businesses, how will you respond?
  12. When the President calls protestors “thugs,” then later that day, a 17-year-old Black young woman in your community can barely finish her shift at a grocery store because adult white men are calling her a ‘thug,’ what will you do?
  13. Which forests can you visit in the midst of all of this, so that in their bright greenness they can remind you that the world is persistently and courageously alive?
  14. What does your children’s ministry look like when families are vacating the city because both the national guard and white supremacist militias are roving in front of their doors?
  15. After people start breaking windows and torching buildings, how will you refuse to be swept up in the criticism around the destruction of property and make sure that the conversation centers on justice for Black lives?
  16. When someone asks you, “I understand that when Black people with legitimate anger break windows we call it an uprising, and that’s different from when white people come in wanting to create chaos, but at the end of the day do the immigrant business owners who were looted even care about the difference?” what will you say?
  17. How will you contain yourself when the Bible becomes vividly applicable as you read it in the face of such social upheaval?
  18. Who will be in your circle to correct you when you speak or act in a way that unintentionally reinforces racist thought?
  19. How will you remember to drink enough water?
  20. When South Minneapolis residents are encouraged to pack a grab bag and fill their bathtubs with water in case of arson, how will you communicate without inciting panic?
  21. What prayers will help you get to sleep when the constant drone of military helicopters are overhead?
  22. When the news reports are partial and reductionistic, how will you platform voices that add dimension?
  23. How will you create space for non-Black people of color to start confronting anti-Black prejudices in their own communities?
  24. When you check in with people, and the number one response is “I am feeling numb,” how does that change your approach to worship?
  25. How will you proclaim the Gospel?

For us, we discovered responses to almost all of these questions by doing what the Forum for Theological Exploration does—convene people.

Indeed, the good news is that no one pastor has to have the answer to all of these questions; rather, that pastor only needs to know how to gather people well enough that everyone leaves with a greater sense of who God created them to be and how to move towards wholeness. Together, we created:

  • Facebook groups to organize protests
  • A Solidarity Fund to support local folks
  • Healing circles for people to process, including circles that are specifically Black
  • Ways to connect outside resources to local recovery while minimizing “savior” dynamics

Of course, those are just the best ideas that we could think of in our context.

Whether you are a pastor or not, I implore you to think through how you would respond in your context and start having conversations now.

New City had two and half years to build a foundation of antiracism training, sermons, book groups, Bible studies, and policy analysis to be able to respond now, and we needed every bit of it.

Blessings to you in your deliberation. As I write this, a huge thunderstorm just passed through the Twin Cities, guaranteeing for the first time in a week that no building is on fire right now.

May God be such a storm in your life when this happens in your neighborhood.

Rev. Tyler Sit is the church planter of New City Church. He is a United Methodist pastor, the son of a Chinese immigrant, and author of the upcoming book tentatively titled Staying Awake: The Gospel for Changemakers (set to publish early next year). TylerSit.com, @TylerSit

Photo by: Tyler Sit

Tags...: Thinking Out Loud, Visionary Leadership

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