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Numbness, Apprehension and a Small Sliver of Hope: A Letter from Bishop Shannon

Dear People of God in the Diocese of Vermont:

Thanks to a brave young woman with a cell phone camera, the world saw Derek Chauvin kneeling on George Floyd’s neck until Mr. Floyd died. And yet, when I heard the news that Chauvin had been convicted of murder today, it felt surreal. There have been so many other times when we have watched a Black man, a Black woman, a Black child, suffer and die at the hands of a police officer. And there have been so many times I have allowed myself to believe that the perpetrators would be held accountable. But they never were. 

That changed today. I am grateful for that. But I want you to join me in contemplating how strange it is to be thankful that one man was convicted of murdering another. Accountability is essential, yet we must work toward a world in which a man like Derek Chauvin never again thinks it is okay for him to kneel on George Floyd’s neck, a world in which no one will ever think it is right to do such violence to another child of God.

When I spoke to my brother this afternoon about preparing to hear this news, I told him I was feeling numb in the midst of the apprehension. He sent me the link to Nina Simone’s classic song, “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free.”  “I wish I knew how it would feel to be free,” she sings. “I wish I could break all the chains holdin’ me.” That was what I needed to crack through the numbness.

I am always hopeful, especially during this Easter season, that resurrection is right there around the corner—no matter how distant it might seem. With this verdict, I feel that maybe, finally, we might be able to get on with the racial reckoning that lies ahead of us as a nation. My prayer is that we face into this work and do not turn back. Because it will not be easy, and it will not be quick. But for today, at least, it feels as though progress is possible, and we have taken a first step toward the kind of reconciliation that leads to Beloved Community in which everyone knows how it feels to be free.

My prayers are with the jurors, with George Floyd’s family and with the entire community of the Twin Cities.

Peace and blessings,

+Shannon

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