Michigan Episcopal bishop heads virtual memorial service for George Floyd

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News

To mark the first anniversary of the death of George Floyd, whose life ended when a Minneapolis police officer pinned him to the ground, the Episcopal Diocese of Michigan is inviting worshipers to go online for a virtual memorial service Tuesday.

Episcopal dioceses from the United States and Canada are slated to participate in the service, which starts at 8 p.m. on Facebook and the Michigan diocese's website. The service also will highlight other African Americans who have died in encounters with law enforcement.

The aim is "motivating people to act locally," said the Rt. Rev. Bonnie Perry, bishop for the Episcopal Diocese of Michigan, who spearheaded and is co-leading the effort.

In this Sunday, June 7, 2020, photo, the sun shines above a mural honoring George Floyd in Houston's Third Ward. Floyd, who grew up in the Third Ward, died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers on Memorial Day.

"It's vital for people of faith to understand that we’re each made in God’s image and likeness. And in this country we have seen over the years, and more so with the advent of cellphone cameras, that our sisters and brothers who are Black and brown are not always held in that regard. As people of faith, we need to mark that and to say: 'How can we do better?' "

As the anniversary approached and the coronavirus pandemic lingered, Perry reached out to other Episcopal leaders about coordinating an online service centered on social justice.

It is slated to include a prayer of lament from George Floyd Square in Minnesota and a candlelit “act of remembrance” from Ferguson, Missouri, where Michael Brown was fatally shot in August 2014.

Participants can also view a montage timed to match how long Floyd was pinned, Perry said. The piece features other deaths, including Emmett Till, who became a symbol of the civil rights movement after he was lynched in Mississippi in 1955.

Before the service, participants are asked to record a 10-second video of themselves lighting a candle and describing one way they can contribute to racial healing.

“The renewed movement for racial justice and healing that began in the streets of Minneapolis after the murder of George Floyd, and quickly spread throughout the country and around the world, has inspired a deeper awakening to the ways systemic racism form the very foundations of the institutions that make up our common life, including our church,” said Bishop Craig Loya of the Episcopal Church in Minnesota. “That movement and awakening is the work of the Holy Spirit, and if we are to be faithful as followers of Jesus, we are called to use our whole lives to join the Spirit in this work.”

The aim is "motivating people to act locally," said the Rt. Rev. Bonnie Perry, bishop for the Episcopal Diocese of Michigan, who spearheaded and is co-leading the virtual memorial service Tuesday.

Perry, who last year became the Michigan diocese's first female bishop, noted the event follows other programs at some of the 75-plus churches in her territory in response to Floyd. A social justice scholarship is available for examining systemic racism, smaller congregations have been exploring ways to partner with others across geographic divides and worshipers have sparked dialogue on race-related issues, she said.

While Tuesday's service is about reflection, "that leads to action," Perry said. "Because there's so much going on, the only way that we’re going to address systemic racism is if we continually turn our attention to it. Having a national movement to say this continues to matter and Mr. Floyd did not die in vain … we can make a difference and literally save people's lives by addressing systemic racism in our culture. And I think that’s what Jesus is calling us to do at this time."