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February 2018


Dear Members of the Congregations of PLUM:


It is February, and we will soon celebrate Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day, but Pastor Paul has already addressed those in his newsletter.  Since February is Black History Month, and since I have recently returned from classes at Luther Seminary, one of which was Christian Education and Dismantling Racism, I felt compelled to write an additional newsletter this month. (It is also fulfilling an assignment that I need to complete, so thank you, my PLUM family, for indulging me.)


“How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity.”  Psalm 133:1 (NRSV)


You do well if you really fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' ”  James 2:8 (NRSV)


One thing that I keep learning over and over is how much I really do not know.  This is especially true, and troubling, when it comes to matters of race in America.  I am not sure if my parents were sheltering me from these events, or if my community was truly ignorant of what was happening, but I grew up in the sixties and seventies, and I do not ever remember, at home or in school, conversations around civil rights.  As I read some of the books for my class, I was greatly troubled at the violence that was taking place during those times - all based on the color of someone’s skin or their nationality.  If any of you experienced the same lack of knowledge that I did, then I highly recommend the book, The Cross and the Lynching Tree by James Cone.  It gave me an increased awareness of what was happening and how it has affected and continues to affect our society.  Sadly, many churches remained silent about what was happening, either out of prejudice or fear.  The fact that it wasn’t talked about in my home says a lot.  Not talking about a thing does not make it not exist.  Talking with each other about the things that cause divisions is the first step in reaching understanding.  There is a quote from one of the books that I read; it is referencing the decline of membership, especially among young people, but it could be applied to race as well.  It reads, “Finally, one of the men practically shouted, ‘What does [large growing area church] have that we don’t have?’ ‘They have people who are willing to talk to their friends and strangers about their faith.’  The room went silent.  The same man who had posed the question responded very quietly, ‘We don’t know how to do that.’” (Le Tran, Mai-Anh. Reset the Heart: Unlearning Violence, Relearning Hope, Abingdon Press, 2017)


These issues are not a thing of the past.  Just this morning, January 30, 2018, in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette (www.post-gazette.com) was an article titled; Twins were born minutes apart, but only one is an American citizen.  The twin boys were carried in the same womb by a woman in Canada.  The fathers, a married binational gay couple are caught up in legal issues.  Our world is changing, friends.  You cannot look at a group of people and know by appearances if they are related.  Some of our families have that “traditional” look; two parents - one male and one female, of the same race and nationality, with children who resemble them.  But, there is a growing number of families where that is not the case.  Every day, we read or hear stories of violence, where religion, nationality, race, color, gender or age are the cause.  We can sit in our church buildings and pray about those things, but we need to do more.  We need to talk - and let’s start by talking with each other.  We need to act, and we have some great things happening in our congregations that can be the beginnings of change in our world.  We have several diaper banks and food banks in our congregations.  Over one thousand people were fed a free Thanksgiving meal in one of our communities.  Our congregations are participating in community events that bring people of diversity together.  We need to ensure that, at these activities, we are not all sitting together but that we are “working the room”, talking with our neighbors and getting to know them. We are a force of twelve congregations that can make a real difference in Pittsburgh and the world.


It is, indeed, very good when kindred live together in unity.  It is my prayer that we continue to demonstrate love for our neighbor, whomever they shall be.


Sue Devine




Pittsburgh Lutheran United Ministries (PLUM), 405 Kennedy Avenue, Duquesne, PA 15110        412-466-7773