I don't have a plan for how such things will be handled when I'm on vacation or study leave. I was fortunate to be up and hear the news. And, upon hearing it, decided that I needed to go to church, and after a little delay, realized that I needed to do something to address the verdict in the worship service, even though the worship service wasn't my responsibility directly that way. Bowden is right, that it's always our responsibility, even when on summer vacation (or study leave). We are responsible for the worship of the congregation, even when we're on leave.
There's a question about where to draw the line in terms of current events that need to be responded to. It's there somewhere between 9/11, where obviously one does, and the smallest news event you can think of on the other side, where it's not a necessity. The Trayvon Martin case is somewhere between 9/11 and nothing big, surely. Perhaps some could make the case that for their congregation, it wasn't a necessity. But you never know who may come through your doors looking for answers or comfort or to give voice to their anger. I know it was the right thing for many in my congregation that I did show up on a study leave week to lead the congregation in prayer.
Here is, roughly, what I said, as I reconstruct it from my notes I made before the service:
Today many of us may have come here with the recent news of the not guilty verdict in the case of George Zimmerman's shooting of Trayvon Martin. We may be experiencing a wide variety of emotions in relationship to the news. We may be angry, or sorrowful. Some of us may feel relieved, or even glad. Some of us may simply feel confused.
We have a justice system in our country where the burden of proof is on the prosecution. This may well be a case of self-defense.
But we also have a cultural system in this country where a young Black man is assumed to be a threat.
This may be justice for George Zimmerman.
And yet, at the same time, there is no justice today for Trayvon Martin's death, and a young man has still died who should have had a safe walk home.
It is for him today that I ask a time of silence, reflection, prayer, or thought as we listen to "Ella's Song" by Sweet Honey in the Rock.
Until the killing of Black men, Black mothers’ sons, is as important as the killing of White men, White mothers’ sons, we who believe in freedom cannot rest.
Blessed be, and Amen.