From the Presbytery of Milwaukee:

August 15, 2016

Friends,

Yesterday I worshiped with Good Shepherd Trinity church which is located in Sherman Park. During worship, members were invited to come forward and talk about their feelings and concerns regarding the previous night’s rioting and damage to the community. Many shared stories of racism both past and present, and the desire to do something about it. We met after worship to discuss possible strategies and how GST can play a part in the community.

The recent violence, looting, and destruction in the Sherman Park has brought the underlying tensions of Milwaukee to the surface. The challenges of income inequality, mass incarceration, inferior public schools, and housing evictions have been documented in the media, books, reports, and numerous articles. In a youtube video on yesterday, Venice Williams, the speaker at our November presbytery meeting and founder of Alice’s Garden, spoke of when the match was lit that has caused the damage in Sherman Park. I encourage you to watch her video here.

Good Shepherd Trinity sits in Sherman Park about 3 short blocks away from the gas station fire. As a congregation they are grappling with next steps and how to respond to the activities outside of their door. As Presbyterians we are a connected church. This means one congregation’s challenge is a challenge for all of us. I am asking the Presbytery of Milwaukee congregations to come together and be available to help Good Shepherd Trinity during this time. This may mean help with the food pantry or just to staff the building as they open their doors for the community to meet and dialogue in their space. Pray for Good Shepherd Trinity and ask for ways to help.

The issues in Milwaukee are common in Racine, Beloit, Janesville, and Kenosha. They are present in Menomonee Falls, Waukesha, and Washington county. Our congregations cannot solve these problems alone. We must reach out and connect with other communities of faith and not-for-profits. We have an opportunity to work and serve together for the good of the city and the area in which your church is located.

Some efforts are already underway in Milwaukee. The presbytery already partners with Milwaukee Rising as they purchase and rehab properties in Sherman Park. Immanuel and Wauwatosa are focusing on gun violence. Christ is involved in a program for incarceration. Wauwatosa and Christ have scheduled a dialogue with Cross Lutheran. Tippecanoe, North Shore, and Grace Milwaukee have partnered with Hephatha Lutheran, and conducted an arts and science summer literacy camp for inner city children. Many other congregations are having conversations around race and white privilege as well.

These conversations must continue, and demonstrable action must be seen. When urban and suburban congregations work together for justice, we are truly living out the Gospel.

Craig M. Howard