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A Letter from Riverside's Pastors

from Riverside Baptist Church, New York City

Tomorrow we will gather for worship with hearts heavy and souls weary. This week the sins of our nation were laid bare again in the fatal shootings of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, Brent Thompson, Patrick Zamarripa, Michael Krol, Michael Smith, and Lorne Ahrens. While their names grace the covers of our newspapers, there were many killed this week whose stories were not filmed and whose names we don't know. This is what it's like to live in America today, and it is soul-crushing.

We know too well the sins that are tearing us apart - racism, white supremacy, the idolatry of violence, poverty, hatred, anger, apathy, and so much more. As Christians, we also know that there is a power stronger than all of these, the power of love. And that Jesus calls us, again and again, to summon the courage to live that love with each other for a world so desperate to see love in action.

In a time similar to ours, one of fomenting nights and tear soaked days, Dr. King reminded our nation, "Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that."

We cannot allow the perpetuation of violence to deter us from our calls for justice. Our nation's original sins of white supremacy and racism are responsible for the shootings in Dallas, Baton Rouge, and Falcon Heights and the violence will not stop until we as a people truly create a culture, for the first time in our history, where black lives matter and where we come together instead of allow fear to destroy us.

Tomorrow we will gather for worship as we always do on Sunday mornings. We will hear the words of scripture proclaimed and share a time of silence together and beg the God of the universe to heal us and to make us bold prophets of the change that must come to our country.

At the end of service, we will light candles to recommit ourselves to being light in this dark night devoid of stars. As your pastors, we know you are feeling the weight of grief and pain and hopelessness too, and we are here for you in whatever way we can be. And as The Riverside Church, we will continue to be a living witness to the grace and hope of community and the power of love to heal the world. We hope you will join us in worship.

With God's Peace,

Pastor Amy Butler, Senior Minister
Rev. Michael Livingston, Executive Minister
Rev. Bertram Johnson, Minister of Justice, Advocacy & Change
Rev. Rachel Johnson, Director of Communications & Public Relations
Ms. Mandy Meisenheimer, Director of Children & Families
Rev. Debra Northern, Minister of Parish Care
Ms. Christian Peele, Director of Stewardship & Development
Rev. Kevin Vandiver, Director of Youth & Young Adults
Rev. Kevin Wright, Minister of Education

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