Over the past two weeks our School of the Arts family has watched with horror and disbelief as we witnessed senseless killings and were reminded of so many others from the black community who have suffered at the hands of injustice. In the moments immediately after the first protests, many of the staff of the School of the Arts gathered together virtually to try to process the circumstances of these incidents. We listened as our colleagues shared with honesty about the pain of racism; we prayed together; and we started to think about how to look forward without skipping essential steps of understanding. We have spoken about the hope of using our arts and ministries to express what is happening and to convene conversation that leads to pathways forward, and we have continued meeting with the challenge of turning dialogue into action. If we are honest, we know that these are small, beginning steps toward much larger change that is required.
Clearly, we are seeing the pain of our community, and we are listening. We are hearing from our staff that they are ready to walk through this time of grieving together, arm in arm, to make a change, and we want to include our students in this journey. This is not a political position, it is the practice of love. God’s Word is not silent about racism, dehumanizing, or devaluing of life; it clearly teaches that black lives matter (Gal. 3:28, Eph. 2:14), that we are to carry one another’s burdens (Gal. 6:2), and that we are all created in His image (Gen. 1:27).
In the next few days, there is a family conversation planned with our students and staff. It is our hope that they will hear the hearts of their mentors pouring out over these subjects and that substantive and lasting change can find enduring roots in these conversations, but we are starting in the quiet of a family conversation. We are listening to the voices of friends who are living in pain; we realize that there is real hurt in our community; and we are striving to do more than offer statements without substance. As a School, we are committed to seek change in our city, state, and country, but right now, we are going to take a moment to make sure of change and readiness in ourselves.
One group of students that has been working to make a difference even before recent events is the School of the Arts Diversity Series Committee. I encourage you to read their recent posting and offer your support as they help our School shape meaningful events for the days ahead. I trust that you have seen the message from our President last week about the new reconciliation memorial in the courtyard of the Divinity School (just adjacent to the exit of Harrison Theatre). How timely that our University’s leadership was already leading us through the journey of confession, reconciliation, and healing.
To be clear, we, the School of the Arts, need to change and need to be a part of the change in our society. Over the coming weeks and months, we will share ways that the School of the Arts will engage staff, students, and our community in meaningful strategic steps. For now, we ask you to join us by praying that God will grant us the wisdom, courage, confession, forgiveness, and love needed to move forward and toward His calling that we walk in one accord.
Joseph Hopkins, DM
Dean and Professor
School of the Arts