Engage 2016: A Multiethnic Gathering kicked off on Wednesday night in Grand Rapids, Mich., but it wasn’t a celebration. Rather, it was a service of lament about injustice.
Michelle Loyd-Paige told participants gathered in the Calvin College chapel that it would be much easier to start with celebration. But, she said, sometimes we move too quickly to celebration, inspired by visions of Revelation 7.
She quoted Jeremiah 6:14: “They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. ‘Peace, peace,’ they say, when there is no peace.”
“That happens every time when we see a believer who is a person of color and we say ‘I don’t see color,’ or ‘My family didn’t own slaves.’ It happens when we say ‘Black lives matter,’ and they say ‘All lives matter.’”
She pointed out that it doesn’t take more than watching the news to see that injustice is still an everyday thing. “Whether it is the water in Flint, the lack of apology to First Nations people, whether it is the treatment of Aboriginals in Canada, another shooting, another instance of racial profiling of a Hispanic brother or sister. On and on and on it goes,” she said.
She did not spare those of color who came to the service, noting that there can also be suspicions among ethnic minority groups—African American, Korean, Hispanic.
“Our collective lament is the lack of hope that tomorrow will be any better, that in 2016 we still have to convince people that racism is real, that we fight over which racial group has had the hardest struggle. That is so twisted. It doesn’t matter. At the end of the day, honey, we all oppressed,” she said. “Our collective lament is for the fear that is in our hearts that two years later, at the next multiethnic gathering, this will still be true.”
Loyd-Paige invited participants to write their laments on strips of cloth that were then laid over the crossbar of a wooden cross while she led in a prayer of lament before dismissing the group in silence.
Engage 2016 continues on Thursday, June 10, and Friday, June 11.