Rev. Katie Murray
I became a mom on July 7th of this past year, three hours before Micah Xavier Johnson would open fire at the end of an otherwise peaceful protest against the police killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. That evening, while five police officers lost their lives and others were injured, I held my new son on my chest, completely unaware that wounded officers and civilians were being brought to the very same hospital where I slept.
Becoming a new parent, like any major event, brings with it new awareness. Suddenly the work of reconciliation that I get the honor to partake in through the New Baptist Covenant wasn’t just about the world that I lived in, but the world I was raising my son in. I was no longer only seeking to become more aware of my own privilege, but alongside my husband raising a white son to be able to do the same. The morning of July 8th, when I realized what had transpired the night before, I felt a renewed weight for the work that my congregation, Wilshire Baptist, is doing alongside Friendship-West Baptist through the New Baptist Covenant.
This fall will mark four years since our churches entered into a Covenant of Action and began a journey of new awareness. We began our work together addressing the predatory nature of the payday and auto-title lending industry. Friendship-West has long been an expert in Christian advocacy, and they have been gracious teachers as we have learned to find our voice.
Our work together is changing the landscape of fair lending practices for our community, but perhaps even more importantly, the awareness we have gained from this partnership is fertilizing the soil for the work of reconciliation. Awareness of Friendship-West and their work in social justice led to an awareness of the lack fair lending opportunities for many in our city, which lead to an increased awareness that race is so often the common denominator in unjust systems. And as the roots continue to deepen in the ground we are coming to the awareness that the next step in this work will require us to be more honest about the role of white privilege in our predominately Caucasian congregation. This Spring we held a month-long series on Wednesday nights entitled “Faith and Race.” The first evening so many people showed up that we had to bring in additional chairs and as we sat shoulder to shoulder I heard long-time members say one after the other, “it’s time, it will be hard, but we are ready.”
Out of the seeds planted four years ago in friendship and collaboration with Friendship-West has grown a renewed desire to accept our calling to the work of reconciliation. We still have much to learn, but in our faithfulness I believe the fruits of the future will be all the sweeter.