O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer;
and by night, but find no rest.
--Psalm 22:2 NRSV
Not quite a year ago, PHCC folks showed grace to me.
The Sunday after George Floyd was killed by a police officer who kneeled on his neck for over nine minutes cutting off his air supply, I just had to share with you some of my pain from the pulpit. As an interim minister during the Covid pandemic, I wanted to keep my sermons on relatively non-controversial ground, but as the father of two black sons I couldn’t stay in “safe” territory.
First, I shared my fears of being misunderstood. I shared my fears of being misunderstood as hating all police officers, judging all police by the bad actions of only some, saying the wrong thing which would shut down dialogue rather than creating opportunities for understanding and leaving people feeling judged.
Then I shared my pain that every time I saw video of a black man getting killed by police I could only see my sons. I asked if there was enough room at PHCC to share my fear and pain as the white father of two black teenage boys?
You responded with a gracious “yes.”
Today I still have the same fears: fears of being misunderstood and fears for my sons’ lives.
Not quite eleven months later, the officer who killed George Floyd has been convicted of murder. I feel relieved for the verdict but no less afraid for my sons. Each day seems to bring news of another black teenager shot by police. Each day still seems to bring news of a traffic stop over something inconsequential leading to a dead black man. Both of my sons will soon be driving on their own, which is scary enough for any parent, but I also think about what if one or both of my sons does something stupid or reckless or nothing at all and ends up shot and killed.
I’m grateful for the guilty verdict in the case of George Floyd’s murderer, but I’m no less afraid for my boys than I was yesterday before the verdict was announced. So, I’m asking you again if there is room at PHCC for me and my fear? Can I share it without folks jumping to one side or another, repeating the arguments of cable news pundits? Can I share my fear of being a white man ill-equipped to prepare black sons for the conscious and unconscious prejudice they will face? Can the parents of white children imagine what it would be like if their kids were judged the same way black kids are judged? Is such a space even possible in our day and time?
I wish I could speak authoritatively about systemic racism in our culture, but the more I learn as a white man about the white privilege I was raised with, the less I know for sure. My own sense of what safety and security mean in our culture goes out the window when I think about what might happen to my sons. I don’t know much for sure other than fear.
So, I name that fear before you in the hopes you can hear it for what it is and the hopes you won’t judge or condemn me for what it is not.
This morning Chalice Press, the Disciples of Christ publisher, sent out the following prayer. It seems like a good one for me to pray. I invite you to join me.
O God, Creator of each and every one of us,
We pray for justice.
We pray for the family of George Floyd.
We pray for those who fear each day they will be the next George Floyd.
We pray for those taking to the streets—to acknowledge justice served, to protest and work
where injustice remains. For all, we pray for their safety.
We pray for those who argue this verdict and hope they will someday see the error in their
We pray we will all learn how to repent of the sins of racism: where we see it in others and
where it lives in us, the sin we commit knowingly and the sin we may never recognize.
Above all, we pray and work for peace. Always, always peace.
Grace and Peace,
Rev. Chase Peeples
We're Park Hill Christian Church in KC MO. We seek to follow Jesus by praising God, loving those we meet and serving the vulnerable.
6601 Northwest 72nd Street, Kansas City, MO 64151 | 816-741-1851