Events in our nation continue to astound and concern us. With threatened discord being planned by extreme right groups in every state capital, we are anxious about the next week before the Inauguration. Please, beside protecting yourself from COVID-19, stay inside and take care of yourselves.
January is always a difficult month for me. Christmas is over for another year, the lights are taken down, and we face a time of darkness, cold, and gloom. Usually, I plan a time away at this time of year and go somewhere where it is sunny and warm! The world is in such a state that all I’m looking at is more time spent on my couch reading. While I love to read, it is so lovely to read on a beach with the sun beating down on me! Perhaps some of you have those thoughts now, too.
This Sunday is a day when we, as a nation, celebrate the life and legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. It may be a difficult memory, but when he was alive he was not looked upon favorably by most Americans. I read this week that polls at the time reported that only a third of Americans felt MLK was doing important work and regarded him in a positive light. I know that in the very white suburb in which I grew up, although I was a teenager at the time, what I heard being spoken around me was that if he would only be less forceful it would be better for the nation. He was an angry Black man stirring up trouble. We must be honest and acknowledge this past history.
Words that we are likely to hear in our churches at this current time of racial reckoning claim such things as “we are not racist” or that we are “colorblind.” We do not see the race of another person or treat people differently based on their race. This may seem innocent enough. But author and historian Ibram X. Kendi writes in his book How to Be an Antiracist that the problem with saying someone is “not racist” is that such a statement claims neutrality, when actually none exists. Kendi says that we are either one of two things: racist or antiracist and resisting racism. He writes that “the opposite of racist isn’t ‘not racist’. It is ‘anti-racist.’”
Kendi contends the same is true for claims of colorblindness—by failing to name racism as a scourge on our world, we leave it in place. Another way of putting this: by failing to name racism as evil, we bless it as good. Again, Kendo’s point is this: “One endorses either the idea of a racial hierarchy as a racist, or racial equality as an antiracist.” There is no in-between.
On this Sunday when we celebrate the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr., it seems critical that we name racism, both in our own lives and in our country, for what it is: evil—not the way of God in this world. In light of what we saw unfold last Wednesday, we cannot ignore the evidence that was acted out before our eyes. We need King’s prophetic witness today every bit as much as it was needed in his day. One cannot help but hear the way his words ring painfully true in this time and in this place.
In his book Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community, King wrote this “White America was ready to demand that the African American should be spared the lash of brutality and coarse degradation, but it had never been truly committed to helping him out of poverty, exploitation or all forms of discrimination…White Americans left the Negro on the ground and in devastating numbers walked off with the aggressor.”
We must confess our corporate sins and ask ourselves, in light of such murders this year as that of George Floyd, whether we are capable of calling a thing what it actually is. That is what I would wish our national leaders would do—call out the insurrection of last Wednesday as the privileged white response to lies told to us by a significant portion of the national leadership.
Jesus was crucified for speaking truth to power. John the Baptist was decapitated for doing the same thing. In our callings, are we brave enough to speak the truth? Whose truth? We know that our God of the cross is also the God of resurrection, who brings healing and transformation at broken places.*
Peace and grace,
*Acknowledgement to Roger Gench for his eloquent writing in this week’s Outlook.
Sunday School for grades 1-5 meets every Sunday before worship, from 9:30-10:00 am. The Zoom link was emailed to the group and remains the same each week. If you do not have the link and wish to be added, contact Jo Fisher at 617-839-0865. *Update* We are very pleased to announce that Eden Fisher has agreed to be our regular children's Sunday School teacher!
Sunday School for youth grades 6-12 meets every 2nd and 4th Sunday during worship at the start of the children's sermon. A zoom link is shared at that time in the worship zoom chat, and is also emailed in advance to the group. Contact Matt at firstname.lastname@example.org if you did not get the link or wish to be added.
Sunday Worship 1/17 @ 10am via Zoom
Welcome to online worship with PPC! Please note the new Zoom link for 2021.
By phone: call (646) 558-8656 and enter meeting ID 817 8173 3351
Click on the image below to open/download the worship bulletin and hymns.
While we are unable to pass the offering plate during worship, we hope you will continue to support the mission and ministry of the church if and as you are able—online, through your bank's bill payment system, or with a check mailed to the church (500 Hope Street, Providence, RI 02906). All offerings are gratefully received. Thank you!
We invite you to stay online after worship for our virtual coffee hour.
Transcripts and audio recordings of recent sermons can be found on our website here. Audio recordings of older sermons are available here.
Sunday Prayer Vigil with our Presbytery
Join our Presbytery of Southern New England this Sunday, January 17 at 6pm for a Presbytery-wide Prayer Vigil. We will meditate on the words of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King and Scripture and pray together—for peace, for well-being, for stamina and for our call as disciples. All are welcome!
Tuesday Interfaith Prayer Vigil for Peace and Unity
Join with Rhode Island faith communities on Tuesday, January 19th from 4–5pm in prayer toward the wisdom and grace, communication and connection, courage and strength we need to turn from these times of turmoil to a path of healing and unity. Light a candle in your home and connect via Zoom.
Register in advance for this Pre-Inauguration Vigil organized by the Providence Friends (Quaker) Meeting with assistance from the Rhode Island State Council of Churches.
After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting. Questions about the event? Contact: email@example.com
Bible study starts up again on Tuesday, 19 January. We will spend the next four weeks reading about and studying “The Challenges to U.S. Democracy.” This is a four week study developed by The Thoughtful Christian and will lead us down some challenging pathways, I’m sure. I have sent copy of the first lesson to those who are regular attendees and if you are someone who has not attended regularly, please let me know (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I will email you the reading.
I’m looking forward to seeing everyone on Zoom again—and to the passionate responses to this Bible study! Join us at 5:30 on Tuesday evenings. You will not be disappointed!
The next book group gathering will be on Saturday, January 30, from 10:30am-12noon. We’ll discuss President Joe Biden’s inauguration speech.