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A Letter to the Covenant Community, in Light of the Current Situation in Our Country

Dear Covenant College Community,

I know in recent days all of us have been heavy with grief and lament, perhaps feeling much like the prophet, Job: "For my sighing comes instead of my bread, and my groanings are poured out like water. For the thing that I fear comes upon me, and what I dread befalls me. I am not at ease, nor am I quiet; I have no rest, but trouble comes." (Job 3:24-26)

As we transitioned to remote education this spring and then watched as our world was gripped by a pandemic and the onset of an economic recession, it was hard to imagine that life could become more challenging. Then, just a week ago, we were witnesses to the brutal killing of a black man, George Floyd, at the hands of a white police officer. That unjust taking of the life of a man bearing the image of God, when piled on top of the senseless killings of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor, snapped something in the psyche of our nation.

For African-Americans, these deaths reopened old wounds—wounds that are the product of slavery and Jim Crow and the sacrificial strivings of the Civil Rights Movement. We lament the sin that has wrought such devastating effects on the black community in the form of racial injustice and structural biases. We mourn with our brothers and sisters who are reminded of marginalization and oppression that is still, and has been for too long, a part of their experience.

Events like those we’ve witnessed in recent weeks ought to provoke serious reflection, heartfelt repentance, and deep compassion. While those of us in the majority culture may want to somehow fix things quickly, we can and should stop now to listen to our African-American brothers and sisters. Doing so can be—it almost surely will be—uncomfortable and unsettling. But, it’s a part of our calling as fellow image-bearers. Their pain is our pain. Their suffering is our suffering.

We also must give ourselves to prayer: prayers of lament for the sin that mars our lives and our world; prayers of repentance for the ways in which we’ve sinned against our fellow-image bearers; prayers for justice in our land; prayers for healing and reconciliation; prayers for God’s mercy on us all and for the renewing work of his gospel in our lives. We know that we are wrestling not just against “flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Eph. 6:12).

In support of this end, I would like to invite all of you to join me in prayer Monday, June 8 at 11:00am. For those of you who are on campus or local, I would invite you to meet in the chapel to pray. (We’ll need to observe social distancing and—if we can’t—wear masks, but in a time when human bodies have been the site of violence, it will be good for us to be together in body.) If you aren’t able to be in the chapel on Monday—I know that’s the case for most of you—I would still ask you to stop and pray at 11:00am. And I would ask you to pray for these things:
  • Justice in the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor
  • Reform in the aspects of policing and the criminal justice system that have been disfigured by sin
  • Racial reconciliation across our country
  • God’s comfort, both for those in our community and for those outside of it, who are suffering because of these events
  • Open ears, minds, and hearts—for us here at Covenant College and for believers everywhere—to listen to those who are angry or in pain
  • Wisdom to know how we might best serve God’s reconciling work in this world, in our community here at the college first and then through the lives of our graduates as they go out into the world
Praying isn’t all we will do, but it is perhaps the best and most important thing we can do right now. The pain is real and deep. There is reason to lament and repent. We need the Holy Spirit to work among us, to work in the Church, and to work in our land.

Lord, have mercy upon us.

In Christ,

  J. Derek Halvorson, Ph.D.
  Covenant College

  In omnibus Christus primatum tenens