by Rev. Beth Dickerson and Parishioner Ann Ridge
This letter was sent to the UCC President in response to the July 10th worship service.
Dear Rev. Dorhauer,
Blessings and greetings to you and your colleagues in Cleveland from the city of Chicago, in the name of the Creator, the Redeemer, and the Holy Spirit!
Our congregation very much appreciated your thoughts last week on the terrible police tragedies that have befallen our nation. We agree with you that, as Christians, we have a responsibility to carry the Word of God’s love to all people and to act in protest to the police brutality that sadly has almost become the norm in America.
However, as a small congregation we are feeling powerless to influence the societal changes that will heal our country. With only 40 or so active members, we are confused and unsure what to do and where to start. We are asking for your help and direction as to where to begin addressing the culture of fear, violence and terror in our communities.
A highly important concern and recommendation from the congregation is that we, as soldiers of Christ, need more leadership from the top of the UCC as to what we can each do, on a daily basis, to address and combat this excessive violence. We recognize the complexity of the problem and are not strangers to it. But, we all agree, that the United Church of Christ is comprised of intelligent, capable people of all stripes, and as soldiers of Christ we need simple, clear marching orders.
Ways our church currently approaches violence in our community are by addressing poverty through outreach with two local organizations. Bethany United Church of Christ is a founding member of Night Ministry and has organized its public service through that organization, and we also serve meals at The Crib, a shelter for GLBT youth on Chicago’s North Side. We realize that though we are a solidly open and affirming congregation, we can and need to do more to make our own church more welcoming and meaningful. Issues around violence are important to new attendees as we grow our church in response to today’s world. The United Church of Christ can take this opportunity to shine the light of God’s love through us, as beacons of hope, grace and peace.
In short, we need a strategy, a plan that together as churches we can use as a place to stand together against the violence every one of us is experiencing in our lives. Violence in all its faces from gun violence, domestic violence, homophobia - we are witness to it all. In a recent interview with the Rev. Jesse Jackson, he expressed concern that there is no plan to address the violence in our daily lives and in our world - a clear call to action.
Hopefully, you will take our concerns and suggestions seriously, and help us find direction as we influence and aid our fragile world. Together, we can make it happen.
Many blessings to all of you who are working hard to make the voice of the UCC heard.
Rev. Beth Dickerson, Pastor, Bethany United Church of Christ.
Ms. Ann Ridge, Doctoral Candidate at Chicago Theological Seminary
Below is President Rev. John Dorhauer's response.
I have received and read the letter you attached. I have set a time to discuss this matter with other members of my staff and will be back in touch with you soon. Thank you for taking the time to write. Like so many, your community is doing what it can to respond to violence that is erupting in so many places. We are all doing our best to respond in meaningful ways, and perhaps there is some way for us to be in open communication so that what we are learning along the way can be used to help others.
Rev. John Dorhauer