Before our family moved to Tucson in 1994, we lived in Racine, Wisconsin, for 12 years. Racine is just north of Kenosha and just south of Milwaukee, all on Lake Michigan, with picturesque shorelines dotted with lighthouses, piers and boats. All three cities were also known to be deeply racially segregated with pockets of severe poverty. In our first years in Racine I taught in a program for children with special needs from birth to age 3 and had many opportunities to visit the homes and neighborhoods where people lived in poverty and desperate situations. On behalf of our church, our family delivered food baskets in those neighborhoods. I knew people who were trying mightily to raise their families under difficult circumstances. I also knew people who owned businesses and worked in law enforcement and were thoughtful, caring people.

My heart aches now for the people in Kenosha and surrounding areas who are suffering because of long-standing tensions and divisions and new escalations of those. I know that this area is only one example of the struggles being faced in our country. For some time I have been praying and giving thoughtful attention to what we Christians need to be about in order to help and not add to the harm. I know this is a complex, heart-wrenching time for our communities and country.

Here is what I suspect helps. It helps to learn more about ourselves and how our histories contribute to who we are now. That is why I’m reading and participating in classes and embarking on the 21-Day Racial-Equity Challenge. Developing understanding gives us greater clarity in difficult situations and increases our compassion. I also know it helps to do something in our local communities – for example, to bring food for the ICS food bank collection from 10-11 a.m. Tuesdays and, beginning Sept. 5, on Saturdays as well. We can talk with one another and ask, “How is life for you right now? What are you learning about yourself in these challenging times?”

I also know what does not help. Speaking in inflammatory, divisive ways on social media and in other writings and conversations does not help. Claiming that it is someone else’s problem and blaming one another does not help. My mother always said that if I pointed a finger in blame at someone else that at least three fingers are pointing back at me! How can we be helpers in these days?

Because I believe in the power of prayer, I can say that prayer that is focused on asking God for direction, guidance, strength and healing will help. That is my daily prayer. Today my prayers are also for those suffering because of hurricanes, storms, fires and the pandemic. This is a time for us to turn deeply and regularly to God in prayer.

This Sunday, Aug. 30, in worship we continue our series on “What Do These Words Mean?” with a discussion about “Idolatry.” Worship with me at 9:45 a.m. here on our website,, or St. Mark’s UMC, Tucson on Facebook or at UMC St. Mark’s Oro Valley on YouTube. See you then!