Rev. Ana Cho, Epworth UMC
Afghanistan. Haiti. The delta variant. The news is grim.
In addition to that, last week the report came out that anti-Asian violence in this country is at an all-time high. According to a recent report from NPR, more than 9,000 anti-Asian crimes have been committed since the pandemic.
What is a faith community to do? When anti-Asian hate reared its ugly head most notably with the mass shootings in Atlanta, Rev. Anna Cho of Epworth United Methodist Church in Portland, OR knew something needed to be done.
According to its Facebook page, Epworth, has its “historic roots in the Japanese-American immigrant experience; the people of Epworth United Methodist Church are becoming an ethnically and culturally diverse Christian community.”
To respond to the Atlanta shootings and other anti-Asian violence, Rev. Cho coordinated a short video to express her congregation’s fear and pain. Here’s how it unfolded, according to Rev. Cho (there are some edits for clarity and length):
The shootings in Atlanta hit home for us – until then we as Asian Americans focused on allying ourselves with the BLM movement. And then racism literally hit us. These were our elders, our mothers, our siblings. Until then we didn't even recognize that we as Asian Americans were dismissing ourselves (invisible Asians) in order to enhance and elevate the BLM movement.
It felt like an attack on our faces, our livelihood – everything we made since living in the States – right down to our souls. We were torn, feeling scared, being retraumatized with events that said "you're not wanted here and you sure ain't safe here!" But we also were compelled to use our very face, which is often hidden and sidelined, to get out there to say, please stop – it's really hurting all of us.
Members shared feeling apprehensive walking on the streets. I wrote an impromptu email out to church peeps saying, “We can't be silent and together we can share a new ‘voice/face’ to this hate against Asians.”
I told them, “You'll literally need to show your face – these 'people' don't see that you're a person, that you're a mother, that you're their friend, you're their neighbor. Will you use your position your identity to cry out loud – please stop and embrace?”
People were fired up. And the process to make a video began. We wrote our message together, we made sure people could record on their own, that they felt empowered to take control of this situation to bring everyone together to create a cohesive message.
More than anything – this project was healing for us. We were so distraught and saddened that we felt immobile in the face of evil. I think doing this project during that time gave us a purpose to keep crying out loud, finding ways to be in solidarity with others.
If you haven’t watched the powerful video yet, I urge you to do so.
Although the context and purpose are different, the outcomes for telling your church’s story – even (and maybe especially) when you stand for justice – are similar to last week’s Humans of Beacon.
Telling your story like this can be a valuable way:
1. For people to get to know each other
2. To realize the impact of the congregation (and the importance of supporting it)
3. To reach people beyond the church (i.e., evangelism)
A smaller congregation like Epworth UMC has made a difference with a simple video. Speaking out to tell your story can be scary...especially in our current emotionally-charged climate. But if your congregation has something to say – something that needs to be said – be sure and take inspiration from the brave people of Epworth United Methodist Church.
Do you know what I want?
I want justice—oceans of it.
I want fairness—rivers of it.
That’s what I want. That’s all I want.
(Amos 5:24, The Message)