Dear [White] Church,
Allow Your Hearts to Be Uncomfortably Broken
Pain is a meeting place with God. It is a place of the truest honesty.
Pain is not a mistake to fix. Healing rarely comes without pain.
A broken heart is always a beginning.
This pain is a beginning or this pain is a door to distrusting God.
What if you were not afraid of your pain, or of your broken-heart?
Throughout church history, we have been complicit in the sin of systemic racism. This is the painful truth we have denied, run from, powered over, and bulldozed for too long. This has been denied because there are four very uncomfortable emotions attached to this: grief, anger, fear, and shame. We don’t handle these emotions well in the regular complications of our lives, so why would we want to feel them about this sin that may not directly affect us? Why would we want to feel guilt when we can shift blame and responsibility to those who made the decisions before us?
Instead, I want to ask you this: What if we were not afraid of our pain?
My heart has been broken over this. Say what you want about Black Lives Matter but their message broke me so that I could no longer look away. I have spent 39 years as a youth pastor. I love many young black men. I have raised three of them as my own. When I learned of Trayvon I knew how close my own boys were to being a “Trayvon statistic.” We had already experienced “driving while black.” So when I was asked to start our church I knew we were going to have these painful conversations as a part of our worship. We would be a church not afraid of our pain and would no longer be complicit in the sin of systematic racism. One of our core value statements is “We will not dehumanize the other.”
We have chosen to have these conversations as a part of our worship. Conversation, worship, and prayer are what we are. In these conversations we do feel the emotions of grief, anger, fear, and shame. This makes for intentional uncomfortable conversations. Sometimes someone reacts pretty strongly. Thankfully it is not only I who have to guide the conversation through the pain anymore. This worldview and these conversations are now a core part of our church and are looked forward to. Our regulars jump in with their learned perspective. There is so much shared vulnerability. We have become the place where you can talk about what we are seeing because we have no doubt that God is revealing this for such a time as this for the church to repent of their complicitness.
As a youth pastor I have lived through the teen years in the 1980s, 1990s, 2000s, 2010s and now into the 2020s because my church is built for teens. When we are having these conversations, teens want to participate in them. It has been well studied that this sin of systemic racism bothers them.
The teens are also over-hearing these conversations. They are hearing a generational mix of adults struggle with their grief, anger, fear, and shame and they are watching them grow. Can you think of a better way to form a teen’s worldview?
This is not easy. Our beautiful worship music gives us words and music for our wounded and overwhelmed souls. Seeing the faces of each other as we feel the pain bonds us. There is something about seeing faces. We have decided as a church to allow this pain to break us and to change us. We are changing. We are especially changing in how we view God.
“Because injustice grieves the God we love, it mars the creation we love, it harms people we love, and it even harms the wrongdoer, whom we should love and not hate. What is seeking justice? It is to speak the truth in love and to not shield people from the consequences of their actions.” 
As the pastor when our conversations become uncomfortable for the people in our church, I need to guide them through the discomfort, not shield them from it. I need to guide them in love because the truth was spoken. It is in this discomfort we feel the consequences of the actions done generations ago that have benefited us today. This discomfort is okay because it will bring about reconciled healing. This is the movement of God. You cannot have love without justice.
The writings of John Perkins have broken me the most. Or should I more rightly say have formed me the most. Especially because one of my sons is currently in prison. He is living in the dehumanization of our prison system. We are reading John Perkin’s final books together and his learned perspective from John Perkin’s own words influences me.
These words from the honored John Perkins are the words for our church:
“The Church should rightly grieve for our failure in living into the fullness of God’s light. But we have a problem. In our Western world we don’t do well with grief and suffering. Our rugged individualism has trumped the call to shared grief. And many of us believe that it shows a lack of faith to lament. We want to move too quickly to our claims of victory in Jesus. We neglect the need within our souls to cry out. It is much easier to ignore the aching in our souls. But I love the Church, and my heart’s desire is to see her well. My love for the Church compels me to cry out and to sound the alarm.”
“What would this kind of lament look like today? How can the Church come together to grieve our failure and appeal to him for healing? And what do we have to lament over? I would argue that we have much to lament. But before we get started, let me prepare you for what lies ahead. It can be agonizing to dig up the deep wounds of our history. Like lancing a boil, there is excruciating pain before the final release of venomous pus. It’s hard and painful work. But we can be encouraged by the example of our Christ who endured the agony and suffering of the cross in order to purchase our salvation. …Lament and confession live on the agonizing side of reconciliation, but on the other side there is the church victorious.” 
I’d love to see a church victorious. I’ve been a pastor for 40+ years, which means I’ve seen a lot that is not victorious. But what I love even more is my people growing to have this fuller “larger story” view of God because we are not afraid of our pain and are learning who God is in the midst of it. That is a conversation worth having!
Feeling the uncomfortable lament with you,
Rev. Brenda Seefeldt Amodea
Brenda is a pastor, speaker, wife, and mom to four men with their own brave stories. She pastors Larger Story Church, www.LargerStoryChurch.com, a hybrid church that meets over Zoom because conversations are a part or worship. Brenda writes at www.Bravester.com.
 Tim Keller, “Forgive: Why Should I and How Can I?,” p. 108
 John M. Perkins, “One Blood,” pp. 68-69