How Lament Can Help with Racial Reconciliation
When We Don’t Know What to Do
One of the hardest lessons that I’ve had to learn personally and pastorally is how to help in regard to the matter of race in our culture. A few years ago, one of our African-American parishioners stopped me after a service and said, “Pastor, when are we going to pray about Ferguson?”
At the time I didn’t understand Ferguson, I didn’t understand the context. So what he was really asking was if I understood what was happening, what was taking place. In that moment, as a pastor, I was dealing with a difficult scenario. I wanted to empathize with my brother, but I didn’t really know what to say. And this is where I’ve found lament to be really helpful.
Lament is a meeting place for us to gather and say, “Let’s weep with those who weep.”
Lament Is a Place to Gather
Lament gives folks—on various perspectives of the whole racial issue—a common meeting place to meet one another and essentially say, “I don’t know what to say. I don’t know if what I’m saying is even right. But here’s what I know: I weep with you and I hurt with you. Let’s lament together that this problem exists in our culture, that there’s a misunderstanding between us.”
Lament offers a language for racial reconciliation that I think the church could embrace. We’ve seen it be really helpful in our own context. I’ve found it to be empowering and liberating. It gives me courage to enter into a very sensitive and important topic with a language that ministers grace in a great and significant way to the body of Christ.
To those who are really hurting, to African-Americans wondering, “Do you understand this?” and to folks who are from majority culture who are saying, “I don’t know what to do,” lament is a meeting place for us to gather and say, “Let’s weep with those who weep.”
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For hurting people, knowing that this expression of grief is a biblical and a God-given category can be a watershed moment.
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Pastor, Don’t Quit—Learn to Lament
In order to stem the tide of weariness and burn-out, pastors should learn how to lament.