Showing Up, Standing Beside and Listening

by LeDayne McLeese Polaski / 24 October 2016 / No Comments

14492353_10210857944064484_6847539329894478297_nPastoral reflection from the Charlotte Protests, excerpted from sermon delivered by Rev. Amy Jacks Dean at Park Road Baptist Church, September 25, 2016.

I feel as though I have learned more in one week than in my whole life put together because I Showed Up and Stood Beside. And I listened.

I make my living with words – as a minister, I talk and write a lot. I mean ALOT. Whether on the phone or in an email or on social media. Or in the pulpit or teaching. Or performing ceremonies or simply saying the blessing because clearly preachers like to eat more than anyone else. Words. It’s what I do for a living when you think about it. There are lots of facets to this job, but words comprise a large portion of what we do – trying to craft the message of the Gospel for a current time and place to give meaning and wholeness to the lives we live – Words. It’s what we do for a living. And this week I’ve had no words.

So my husband Russ and I decided to Show Up and Stand Beside. And that’s what we’ve done. I’ve not worn the right shoes, but it took only one day to correct that. They didn’t teach a class in Pastoral Protest in seminary. Some things you have to learn on the fly.

14440907_1100195530018290_7128020172378472334_nIf it wasn’t so awful it would be wonderful – like a big reunion – among the thousands, seeing many of the same folks every night. The feeling in the streets has been like a reunion. I’ve never been to a concert or a football game or even a Festival in the Park where I have felt more connected than I have in the streets of uptown this week. Walking that circle from the Omni to the Government Center to the jail to the police station. Just walking and meeting people and hugging and singing.

I’ve always wondered what I would have done if I had been a pastor in the 60s. Seems clear and easy now that whites and blacks should be able to drink out of the same water fountain. But would I have marched for it then? The search committee in telling us about PRBC said “we marched with MLK” and I wondered again – would I have done that? This week has given me the chance to find out.

I offer to you some of my experiences from uptown Charlotte this week:

  • Singing – you just never can tell when a heartfelt rendition of We Shall Overcome might just come over the crowd.
  • Making new friends – deepening relationships from acquaintance to something more.
  • Hugging – so much hugging.
  • Laughter and tears.
  • The voice – the protest voice – not my voice. Their story, not my story. Their strident tone, not my tone. Leaders on the streets and in press conferences have demanded things. Russ and I, as we stood behind those demanding voices, imagined that if we were in charge it would go something like “we really think it would be a good idea if you would consider releasing the tapes. We think it would ease up tensions a bit.” You can see why we are not protest leaders.
  • Chanting – “Hands up. Don’t Shoot.” “Forward together. Not one step back.” “Release. The tapes.” This is not my voice. Because it’s not my story. But I can hear their truth – which is their lived experience – and I can Show Up and Stand Beside. I’ve not agreed with every single word that I have stood beside. But not agreeing with every single word does not mean that I can’t Show Up and Stand Beside.

I can honestly say that there have only been very few that allowed their anger to spill over into rage and became violent and destructive. And every single person has named that as despicable and deplorable and inexcusable. No one want wants violence, but anger needs a place to rest and for this week and I’m guessing for days to come, that anger is going to rest in the streets of uptown Charlotte. The calm is no more and I am learning to see that as a good thing.


Blog by
Rev. Amy Jacks Dean
Park Road Baptist Church

This has been very long in the making. The calm ended in Charlotte on Tuesday. But the peace – true Shalom – wholeness – has not been there for ALL of us in . . . forever.

The truth is pouring out in the streets. Truth from blacks, and whites and browns. All that they want is justice…for all. Life…for all. And almost every police officer I thanked replied with “thank you for being here” as if they really believed that their work was not in vain to create a safe place in which the anger could be expressed and heard.

While I spent time in the streets of uptown Charlotte, I was not afraid. When I would get home and watch cable news, I would then feel the fear rising up within me. So my advice is to turn off the news and take to the streets. If it wasn’t all so awful, it would be beautiful. And if you are only getting your perspective from cable news, I can promise you are not getting anywhere close to the Truth.

About the author:

LeDayne McLeese Polaski