In Memory of George Floyd: What Shall We Say as Church?

by Rev. Shari Prestemon, Conference Minister

“Please. Please. I can’t breathe.”

That desperate plea was among the last words spoken by George Floyd, a black man who was killed on Monday night at the corner of 38th and Chicago Avenue in Minneapolis.

After being detained & handcuffed by police on a non-violent charge, one policeman ground his knee into the back of Mr. Floyd’s neck and held it there for approximately eight minutes while other officers stood watching.

Mr. Floyd’s appeals for help all went unanswered and he appeared to lose consciousness before an ambulance arrived to take him to Hennepin County Medical Center, where he later died.

Family members and friends now grieve the bitter, brutal loss of their loved one. Protesters have taken to the streets. News reporters are casting a spotlight on the horrific, truth-telling video. And social media is blowing up with outrage.

But what shall we say as Church?

We must unequivocally affirm that George Floyd’s life mattered. His black life mattered. He was a precious Child of God.

We must confess that the evil scourge of white supremacy, historically aided and abetted by the Christian Church and its self-avowed faithful, has pressed its full weight into the necks of black bodies for centuries and is still actively doing so.

We must lament our own complicity in systems that privilege many of us while those same systems from which we benefit oppress and kill communities of color.

We must let the cry of Amos roar from our pulpits and pour out into our streets: “let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” (Amos 5:24)

We must declare that the Jesus we follow, who preached in word and deed the love of neighbor, care for the least of these, and abundant mercy, would weep and rage over George Floyd’s brutal, needless death. Because George Floyd begged for mercy and was given none. George Floyd asked for water and was denied. George Floyd cried in pain and was subjected to yet more pain. George Floyd said he couldn’t breathe, and he died.

In the name of Jesus Christ, in whose name we worship, we must say “no more.” We must call for change and demand justice. We must be the change we say we want. We must join with the prophet Amos to “seek good and not evil”, to “hate evil and love good, and establish justice in the gate” (5:14-15)

Beloved, may it be so.

© Minnesota Conference United Church of Christ | 2023