A Pastoral Letter from the Rector

Monday, June 1, 2020

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

This morning, as I sat in my office staring at a blank computer screen while trying to figure out how to begin this letter, the phone rang. It was a parishioner who was dealing with a number of health issues in the family, and at one point she said through tears, “this is all just too much.” After talking for a bit, I got off the phone and realized this is exactly how I feel. This is all just too much. I am sad, confused, grieving, and I think most of all angry as I watch yet another black man, George Floyd, killed by a police officer after he was apprehended for attempting to pass a bad check. While I grieve for the Floyd family and his community and friends, much of my anger is focused on the response; not the looting and the fires but our ability to change the conversation from systematic racism and murder to the events that followed. If you google Mr. Floyd’s name, as I did to make sure I was getting it right (habits of a dyslexic), you will first find stories about the protest and riots that have followed in the aftermath of his brutal and senseless murder. Don’t get me wrong, I do not condone any form of lawlessness and endangerment of life. But where was all the outrage when another person of color was being killed for a nonviolent act?

Young white men have been shooting up our schools for years now, and the response to their apprehension always seems so measured. These days, if a person of color passes a bad check or sells untaxed cigarettes they might be choked to death by a police officer. As an aside, have you noticed how it took a global pandemic to do what our government was unwilling to do to stop mass shootings?

From my place of privilege, I have always thought/hoped that our country was on a long, slow and bumpy march toward equality and justice. This no longer seems to be the case. The forces of darkness and evil are on full display on the news every day and in control of many aspects of American life. Once white supremacy lurked in the darkest corners of the dark web, but not now. They are marching in streets, proudly carrying flags, signs, and automatic weapons as they are legitimized and very much in the conversation at the highest reaches of government.

“This is all just too much.” For so long, so many of us have sat silent as things have gone from bad to worse. This was once a country all about progress. Now we are a country about the suppression of people's civil and voting rights in hopes of maintaining the status quo.

My heart grieves for all the loss; the loss of one more person of color at the hands of the authorities. The loss of over 100,000 souls to this deadly virus. My heart grieves at the loss of hope in so many and the silence of even more. My heart grieves as I sit in an empty church knowing that we cannot safely be together for some time. We need to mourn for all loss. We need to no longer be silent just because it makes us uncomfortable or because “well, it’s really not my problem.” It is all of our problem. As Christians, we believe that when one suffers, we all suffer. Jesus was very clear on this point: “What is done to the least of us is done to him,” and by extension, to all of us.

In my 25 years of ordained ministry, it has never been so clear to me that the church is needed now more then ever. We are a community built on hope and reconciliation; a community that knows we can be better than this. We may not be able to physically be together at this time, but we are certainly being called to come together as one voice. A voice outraged by how we have turned our backs on those who need us the most. A voice provided to us through our station and privilege to lend a voice to those who so many are trying to silence.

One of my greatest fears is that at some point I will look back upon this time and feel a great deal of shame that I did not do more when I had the faculties, facilities, and position to do so. As the leader of this community, I pledge to you that I will do everything in my power to prevent that from happening. I am not sure what that will look like, and I hope a large component of it will be the education of the children and adults of this parish; that we are better than this and we can make a difference. While the task is huge and needs to be addressed on many fronts, that is no reason to do nothing. As a follower of the living God, I believe that we all have the ability and responsibility to make a difference. Let me close this letter with the promises made at baptism.

Celebrant Will you continue in the apostles' teaching and
fellowship, in the breaking of the bread, and in the prayers?
People I will, with God's help.
Celebrant Will you persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever
you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord?
People I will, with God's help.
Celebrant Will you proclaim by word and example the Good
News of God in Christ?
People I will, with God's help.
Celebrant Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving
your neighbor as yourself?
People I will, with God's help.
Celebrant Will you strive for justice and peace among all
people, and respect the dignity of every human being?
People I will, with God's help.

Faithfully yours in God's Service,

Bob +
The Rev. Robert C. Hooper, III

The Reverend Robert C. Hooper III

The Rev’d Robert C. Hooper III (“Bob,” please) and his wife Priscilla married in 1988 and have three children and two Labrador retrievers, "Lilly" and "Theo." Bob received a B.S. in business/marketing from New England College in 1987 and a M.Div. from Virginia Theological Seminary in 1995. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1996 after seven years in the brokerage and banking industry in New York. He served parishes in both Northern Virginia and suburban Boston before coming to St. James’s in 2002 to serve as rector.