On June 5, 2020, a two-block long Black Lives Matter mural was painted down what was 16th Street in Washington D.C. This mural and the accompanying protests, highlighting police brutality disproportionately against people of color and the sin of racism, are located only a few blocks away from Luther Place Memorial Church, a Metro D.C. Synod and ELCA Congregation.
Luther Place is led by Pastor Karen Brau and is known in the surrounding community as the church “with the rainbow doors” in their front yard. While others boarded up their windows, locked their doors and turned off the lights in the midst of the protests, a large group of Luther Place leaders and volunteers opened God’s doors to all who needed it.
Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. (Luke 14:27)
Starting in early June, the Protests & Organizing team of Luther Place began their efforts to support all protestors by setting up a pop-up hospitality center at Thomas Circle (seen below).
The team worked with a cross-section of different teams including community care, intergenerational faith formation, neighborhood partners and outside activists, and the congregational council, with a core team of 20 leaders coordinating around 70 volunteers. Volunteers worked shifts from Noon – 11:00 PM most days and offered free support to protestors who needed medical supplies and first aid, an escape from the summer sun and humidity, a prayer, phone chargers, restrooms or sustenance.
Donations of snacks, bottled water, masks, first aid kits, and other items were collected from across the nation at Luther Place and handed out to anyone in need. As police presence escalated at Lafayette Square multiple nights in a row, Luther Place opened the church doors for emergency pick up of supplies late into the night.
Do not be afraid, said Jesus. (Matthew 28:10)
“We have discerned how, as church, to support the efforts of the leaders on the front lines of #BlackLivesMatter. These words are written in bold yellow letters over two blocks on 16th St NW in DC, and we believe we are being church by serving those participating in the #BlackLivesMatter protests in concrete and reliable ways.” states Pastor Karen Brau.
As the news coverage of nation-wide protests begins to fade, the dedication of Luther Place volunteers and the Metro D.C. Synod to seek justice and racial equity does not. Donations and support are still being provided to this day at Luther Place. You can check out the church’s Twitter feed for the latest hours and items needed. The synod hosted its fourth racial equity conversation on July 30 titled “Imago Dei: Justice-Centered Embodied Leadership”. All previous session recordings can be viewed on the Synod’s YouTube page here.
This work is not convenient and it is also not an elective. It is hard and tiring. Thousands of people have been served over the past 10 weeks by Luther Place. And there are hundreds of thousands still needing to be seen, valued and affirmed. Now is the time for followers of Christ to participate in building the Kingdom of God here on earth by striving for racial justice and equity for all.
“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another,” (John 13:35).
We must engage in the important work happening in our communities to reconcile humanity and wrestle with our call to cultivate a BOLD and BOUNDLESS for all of God’s beloved creation.
How have you (or your congregation) started conversations, educating yourself, or loved your neighbor in the past few months? You can post your stories of impact below in the comments or email firstname.lastname@example.org.