DAYTON — As Christians worldwide enter the final week of Lent in preparation for Easter Sunday, local pastors are using Holy Week to remind their congregations about racial injustices and the theological teachings around it.
Pastors that are part of the Dayton Area Ministers United for Social Change gathered for a news conference at the Levitt Pavilion in downtown Dayton Monday morning, saying they’re showing love but also challenging people around Dayton during Holy Week.
“As we and our congregations step out of Palm Sunday and into this Holy Week, we recognize Jesus’ triumphal entry into the city of Jerusalem, a city that had captured his heart, his mind and his identity as part of the people of God,” a spokesperson for the clergy group said in a statement.
“In the same way that Jesus loved and challenged Jerusalem, we are loving and challenging the city of Dayton and the whole of the Miami Valley.”
The pastoral group said their members are committed to working to bring a place of equity for all in Dayton.
“We continue our commitment to challenge one another to come to the table for hard conversations. We refuse to ignore one another. We refuse to ignore injustice, refuse to ignore pain, refuse to ignore the grief within our communities and pledge to be part of real-life solutions rather than merely adding to the noise,” the spokesperson said.
Pastor Carl Penn of the Fort McKinley Campus of Ginghamsburg Church said churches as a whole play an important role in conversations around racial injustice and creating solutions and understanding.
“My faith tradition that I come from says that the church is the cornerstone of the neighborhood, of the community, and society, in many ways,” Penn said.
“Its not just where you go to worship on Sundays, is where you meet, Its where you have community issues that come up, its where you have town hall meetings, its where you feed people, its where your kids come to play.”
“We have a huge role to play when it comes to injustice,” Penn said.
Echoing the community approach to solving issues of racial injustice was Pastor Pat Murray of Living Word Church in Vandalia who said the most important work done over the last year has been the mutual understanding of each other.
“There’s a lot that I’ve learned over the last year that I just didn’t know. Like the kind of conversations that African-American parents have with their sons and daughters if you get pulled over. That was a foreign concept to me. And suddenly I’m learning there’s a whole layer of human behavior that’s wrapped around me that I was blind to,” Murray said.
“Well I’m not blind anymore. And its made a difference in the way we all work.”
Murray added teachings preached to his congregation emphasize that fights against injustices everywhere are part of the faith.
“Being a brother’s keeper is a lifestyle. We really embody that whole idea that we truly believe everybody matters. Especially those who have experienced injustice and discrimination. Somebody has got to stand up and say ‘we’re with you, we got your back,’” Murray said.
“Our focus is to say to one another ‘we care about who you are; we care about what you’ve experienced.’ If its injustice, we have the right to come along-side, and to support and speak out to people who feel like they have no voice.”
Murray said hard conversations centered around racial injustices have helped bring feelings of understanding to members of his congregations.
“I believe hearts are changing everywhere in all of our congregations,” he said.