[Episcopal News Service] Presiding Bishop Michael Curry preached an impassioned and at times personal sermon during an April 20 virtual Compline service organized by the Episcopal Church in Minnesota and held hours after a jury convicted a former police officer in the killing of George Floyd.
“You have been faithful through this journey, and many of you have marched and virtually all of you have prayed and you have stayed the course,” Curry said, as he thanked Minnesota Bishop Craig Loya for his leadership on behalf of The Episcopal Church and thanked Episcopalians in Minnesota for their dedication to the cause of justice. “There is work yet to be done,” he added.
Curry, Loya and Episcopal leaders from across the church responded to the guilty verdicts with calls for prayer, justice and healing. Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, was killed on May 25, 2020, by a white officer, Derek Chauvin, who was caught on video pressing his knee into Floyd’s neck for nearly 10 minutes outside a Minneapolis grocery store. Chauvin and three other officers were fired, and on April 20, Chauvin was found guilty on three charges of murder and manslaughter. He will be sentenced in eight weeks.
Curry spoke for 16 minutes from his home in North Carolina, during the evening service that was livestreamed on the Episcopal Church in Minnesota’s Facebook page. He invoked a passage at the end of Isaiah 40 that reassures God’s followers that they “shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”
“It is the long walk that can make you faint, because it’s long,” Curry said, drawing an analogy to the fight against inequality and racial injustice. “It’s not quick success. … The struggle continues, but we know now the victory can be won.”
Chauvin’s conviction marked the first time in Minnesota that an on-duty white officer had been found guilty of killing a Black man; a guilty verdict in a trial against a police officer is a rare. Police in the United States shoot and kill about 1,000 people each year, and in most of those cases, suspects are armed and officers’ actions are deemed justified, according to the Washington Post. The few instances of convictions against officers often are on lesser charges.
Chauvin was found guilty of murder and manslaughter in a case based largely on a bystander’s cellphone video, submitted as evidence. Curry pointed to that video as a deciding factor, while lamenting that African Americans throughout the country’s history have faced the threat of violence by police, long before there was video evidence.
“For all the years of my life that I can remember, I have been taught to be wary of the police,” he said. As a Black teenager, he learned from adults that he shouldn’t talk back to officers, “don’t provoke them.”
“I’ve heard that all my life, and I’m aware you get conditioned by the repetition of that kind of thing,” he said. “What happened to George Floyd has been happening [for years]. The difference was there were no cameras. It was just the Black community crying, Indigenous communities crying, brown communities crying, Asian communities crying.”
Even during Chauvin’s trial, Curry said, he couldn’t “give in to the hope” for justice until the verdicts finally were read in court. “Today, if but for one moment, love won. And today, if but for one moment, George Floyd won.”
But the work of the church and followers of Jesus doesn’t end there, he said.
“We must continue until no human child of God is treated less than a child of God, until everybody is treated as God’s somebody, until this world and our communities are beloved communities, where there’s plenty good room for all of God’s children,” he said. “This is our work. This is our task. This is our struggle.”
– David Paulsen is an editor and reporter for Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.