A Call to Prayer from the Bishop
I can’t breathe. Those are the last words George Floyd used as four police officers pinned him by his neck on Monday evening, resulting in his death. They were also the last words spoken by Eric Garner, an unarmed Black man killed in New York City in 2014. These senseless acts of violence by police officers against unarmed Black men is intolerable and provide clear evidence that the racism I just spoke of over the weekend in relation to Ahmaud Arbery is deep and dangerous and unjust. I can’t breathe. That’s what protesters said last night when the Minneapolis police fired tear gas into innocent crowds who were exercising their right to decry the injustice, violence, and racist behavior they had just witnessed. I can’t breathe. Anyone with a heart for justice and love in their heart who watches the video of George Floyd’s death has their breath taken away. To hear cries from bystanders pleading with police officers, those who are entrusted with our care and safety, to stop their violent behavior, makes one gasp at what was recorded for the world to see. Some who watch this video are frightened. Others are angered. Still others shake their head in disbelief. I can’t breathe. Over the last 18 months I have been encouraging members of the New York Annual Conference to “just breathe.” I have distributed bracelets to pastors, written those words in the midst of anxious moments, encouraged everyone to just take a moment to allow emotions to settle, and guided people to breathe out what is evil and breathe in what is good. But in moments like this one, these pleas and techniques seem less than adequate when anger boils over and intolerance to this kind of behavior must be addressed. Some days it seems impossible to just breathe. As a Christian, when I cannot breathe or find a way to deal with my unanswered dilemmas, I turn to the source of life to bring me hope and perspective and direction. In response to this latest act of racial violence, I am calling all United Methodist Churches to intentionally call George Floyd’s name in worship this Sunday, May 31st. Raise the issue. Name the cruelty. Address the racism. Invite reflection. Develop a plan to read more, know more, advocate more. And pray. Pray for George Floyd’s family as they grieve. Pray for anyone who has had their fears heightened or feels their angers raging within. Pray that we might find courage and wisdom that will lead all of our people to understand that in the name of Jesus we have a responsibility to work tirelessly so that all people are valued and treated with dignity and respect. And pray that God will help us all find a way to breathe.
"Breathe on me, Breath of God, fill me with life anew, that I may love what thou dost love, and do what thou wouldst do. Breathe on me, Breath of God, until my heart is pure, until with thee I will one will, to do and to endure." – Edwin Hatch, 1878
May it be so. Oh, Lord, may it be so. The Journey Continues, . . .
Thomas Bickerton Resident Bishop