The protests that have erupted nationwide since the May 25 killing of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police have served as a stark reminder of the fact that America still has a long way to go in the struggle for civil rights and ending police brutality. As the nation focused its attention on Floyd’s funeral Thursday, Rev. Mike Kinman – the rector of Pasadena’s All Saints Church, one of the nation’s leading faith communities involved in social justice – took time to share his thoughts on the Floyd tragedy and the maelstrom of issues surrounding it.
Pasadena Now: All Saints has a long and honorable history of working for social justice, which includes race relations and their attendant issues. How do you feel All Saints can best help bring healing and other help to the present climate of protests and frustrations set off by the killing of George Floyd?
Mike Kinman: Our job now is what it always is. First, you’ve got to feel to heal. So we need to hold space for black people to express their feelings without censorship or judgment. Next, feelings must be heard … so we must use the platform we have to amplify black voices and listen deeply to them. Third, the wisdom must be heeded. We have to use the resources of our congregation – financial, relational, political and more – to bring about the change those voices have been crying for. Finally, we need to keep making space. Lead by following, by knowing when to step aside so \black people can claim the power that is rightfully theirs.
What do you see as the role and responsibility of churches and other faith communities to bring about positive resolutions in times like these?
Pretty much what I just said. Faith communities must be about directing attention where it needs to be directed, remembering that God calls us to meet the divine on the margins and helping us all gather there.
The majority of protests have been peaceful, but there has been some looting as well. What do you feel can be done on a spiritual level to keep the quest for justice on a positive, non-destructive plane?
When people talk about “keeping it positive and non-destructive” … the first thing we need to make clear is that American life has been continually toxic and destructive to black and brown people in this country. That’s the spiritual crisis in this country — that we continue to traumatize and oppress people. Our job is not to “keep it peaceful.” Jeremiah warned against leaders who cried “peace, peace when there is no peace.” Faith communities’ job is to work toward justice that will be true peace for everyone.
What were your thoughts about President Trump’s photo op in front of St. John’s Church with the Bible? What do you feel is the proper way for our leaders to incorporate faith and its symbols into the public arena?
I am much more concerned that right before he went to St. John’s, he said he was going to turn the nation’s military on its own people. And that he used chemical weapons on U.S. citizens so he could cross the street. Faith is power. And wherever there is power, people will try to co-opt it for their own ends. It is our job as faith leaders to stand up for the true core values of our faiths. The true faith question here is not about Trump standing with a Bible, but what those of us who hold that text sacred will do about what he did before that photo was taken and what he is doing now.
Any other thoughts you’d like to express about all this?
Just that I am deeply grateful for the amazing people in the black and brown portions of our community who are absolutely exhausted and still keep stepping out and standing up. You are heroes and you inspire me.
On the Covid-19 front, where do things stand right now for All Saints? Are area churches allowed to hold live services yet? What did you or have you learned from having to hold virtual services amid the pandemic?
We just keep asking the question “what does love look like?” And right now, love looks like continuing to hold worship services online and concentrating our energies on how we can be a force for justice and healing in Pasadena and the world in this time of crisis. We are, as always, prioritizing loving the most vulnerable. That’s why we won’t be gathering for worship soon, and it is why, as safely as possible, we are gathering in the streets.