First Mennonite Church responds to the protests
by Ryan Ahlgrim
Pastor of First Mennonite Church, Richmond, Va.
Since our congregation is located in the capital of the Confederacy, and large protests for police reform and eliminating racism are a daily occurrence here, the leadership of First Mennonite Church posted the following statement on our website and Facebook page, and sent it to the congregation:
“This is an historic moment for Richmond, and perhaps for our nation. First Mennonite Church of Richmond stands with those across the country who are crying out for a fundamental change in the relationship between the police and our communities of color. We are deeply offended at the death of George Floyd and the policies and attitudes that led to his death and the many recent deaths of other unarmed or innocent African Americans, whether at the hands of the police or civilians under the guise of policing their community. We cannot support a social dynamic in which an entire race of Americans grows up to be afraid for their lives every time they see the blue flashing lights of the police.
“We are moved by the spontaneous and widespread protests, including those here in Richmond. We abhor all vandalism and violence committed by individual protesters, just as we are appalled at police tactics that fired tear gas at peaceful protesters who were breaking no laws and exercising their constitutional right to free speech and assembly. We are grateful for police who have knelt with or entered into a constructive dialogue with the protesters and de-escalated hostility, demonstrating a constructive relationship with an aggrieved community. We congratulate city and state leaders who have pledged important reforms.
“We respect the rule of law and are grateful to all of those who have dedicated their lives to its implementation. We are hopeful that we are seeing the dawning of a more fair, friendly, and restorative way for the rule of law to be carried out here in Richmond and across our nation.”
About thirty church members met for a Zoom meeting recently to brainstorm ways for us to get involved. Ideas included giving funds to local minority businesses that were vandalized, supporting a scholarship fund for students who attend a historically black college, creating a weekly or monthly anti-racism learning group, developing a resource list for the congregation, and partnering in an anti-racism project under the leadership of a local black congregation.
The work is only just beginning.