By Shari Prestemon, Conference Minister, Minnesota Conference UCC
Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. —James 5:16
On Monday, I was contacted by a member of the media. “What can we do to heal our communities in the middle of all this pain and unrest?” she wondered. I declined to be interviewed. It felt like she was asking the wrong question. Or that it was at least premature.
Daunte Wright had just been shot and killed by a police officer the day before in Brooklyn Center. We were entering the third week of testimony in the Derek Chauvin trial, the former police officer accused of killing George Floyd less than one year ago. There is an enormous amount of pain in Minnesota right now, to be sure, a whole lot of healing needed. But this is no simple scrape of the knee, fixed up quick with a bandage and a kiss. This is a gaping, raw wound that needs major intervention if healing is to come.
In our Christian tradition, we regularly practice confession. It’s a form of truth-telling, coming clean about our own lives and recognizing how what we’ve done or left undone has caused pain. Our honest confession restores relationship with God and with others. It clears the way for the forgiveness our faith promises, the healing our souls need.
Confession is good for the soul. Truth-telling sets us free.
Before we can heal all the wrenching pain and loss that the evil of historic, systemic racism has caused we need to first tell the truth about what ails us. That will take time. Intention. Courage. It will necessitate personal transformation, policy change, reform and legislation. And we in the Church are not exempt. Our Conference and all our churches must find ways to authentically engage in our own processes of confession, so that we too might be changed.
At a vigil held Monday evening near where Daunte Wright was killed, his family wept bitter tears, their grief and shock brutally clear. Daunte Wright’s mother spoke about her son. She talked about his smile, what a good son and father he was, how much she already missed him and couldn’t imagine more days without him. “My heart is literally broken in a thousand pieces,” she said.
That kind of ragged wound and inconsolable grief won’t heal easily. It takes time to put that many pieces back together again. Our shattered community and nation won’t heal easily either. But we can begin with telling the truth. Only then will healing begin.