An Epistle 

Sara E. Robb, minister

To: Black sisters and brothers who grieve tonight, and fear for their safety more often than not, in a country that prides itself on inherent freedoms extended to “all.”

Grace and peace to you, for all that’s worth, from a grieving God and God’s spirit of comfort and abiding peace. 

During the last half of my residency at CHOA, Daryl the staff support chaplain, nicknamed me The Velvet Rebel because of my penchant for non-traditional ways of doing ministry (looking at you, Sparkles the Visiting Tutu) and what he told me was an ability to speak comfort into impossible situations and peace into injustice with grace and gentleness. 

This week, I’m so far from the Velvet Rebel that I can’t see straight. This week, I did nothing with grace and gentleness; nothing to further peace and justice, nothing to speak peace into the impossibly horrendous. 

This week, as I cozied up to the safety I feel in maintaining equilibrium and staying free of conflict, I disgraced the nickname of Velvet Rebel and discovered that Cashmere Coward is a nickname far more befitting me; and this makes me feel sad and guilty and helpless and low. Like a bad ally and a terrible friend. 

The lectionary gave me the gift of Amos and the plumb line this week. At first I said “yes!” with all the enthusiasm of a child on Christmas Day. As preaching day drew near, as the worship folder needed to be completed, I changed my mind, with all the existential  fears of a child on the first day of school. 

Hiding under the guise of using my pastoral judgment to gracefully dance the line between offering a word of hope to my specific audience, and issuing a challenge to not only them but to a society perpetually bent on showing us time and again that, in reality,  not all lives matter; I chose in fear to abandon Amos and embrace Colossians.

And I’m sorry. My black fiends, I’m sorry I chickened out on an opportunity to preach a sermon that would both care pastorally for your human experience and your devastation, and offer accountability to my listeners within their context. 

I’m sorry I picked the safe route this week. I’m safe enough. I can sleep tonight knowing that when I hit the road tomorrow, I can do so with confidence that my life is not in danger. 

I can go throughout my days without fear of being hurt, beleaguered, followed, suspected based on the color of my skin. 

I’m thankful that I can do this. And I am deeply grieved that you can’t. 

I’m sorry for the role I have played in the systemic belittling of your personhood; for the role I have played in the progressive, oppressive diminishing of your humanity.

I’m sorry for letting my voice trail off in the distance behind your struggle; for not lifting it in solidarity with you, for not raising it on your behalf.

I can do better. I have to do better. I will do better. 

Because your lives matter. 

Teach me how to carry your songs and laments, and protests and demands when your voices run out. Show me where to pick up where you left off. 

Because your lives matter.

God’s peace and comfort be in your spirit tonight and always. 


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