Thinking Together Column 3/1/2016

I’m still a bit punch-drunk from exhaustion after last night’s Community Gathering on Race at Highland. It was energy well-spent.

Many of you gave energy far beyond what a pastor could hope or ask. The result: a community gathered to discuss the toughest issue in our country, what Jim Wallis calls “America’s Original Sin”— racism and the continuing effects of slavery.

It is hard to read of past terror against enslaved people. It is embarrassing to read of government sanctioned racism which kept wealth and power out of black hands.

But what moves us to action is the gospel call to address the imbalance and the continuing subtle ways in which white privilege is perpetuated. Is this not what Jesus said the good news was: a message to the poor, letting oppressed go free, announcing the year of the Lord’s favor?

Highland, you took a stand for God’s justice last night. Your presence, your service, your contributions of physical and emotional energy were salve for black wounds. Countless black men and women expressed deep gratitude for the conversation, the honesty, the solidarity they felt with us. And we too felt gratitude and humility to be part of such a moment.

The name for this is God.

There’s still a lot of work to do. Join the lunch or book discussion groups. Listen to God’s Spirit. Join our Justice Ministry Group. Be a leader in God’s army of love.

But first, at risk of pride, let us pause to give thanks to God and to all who played a role in letting Highland host what might be the first step in God’s next great miracle.

I’ll let Ken Johnson’s words complete my reflection:

“Tonight was absolutely amazing. I sat in the back. It might not have been as obvious to those of you in the expensive seats in the front, but in   the back, there was a lot going on! Actually, throughout the sanctuary, there was great attention and great interest. I have no idea how many folks were downstairs, but I think by most any objective measure, the evening was splendid.

“Early on when Kathy turned toward the congregation and invited them to join in, I was so choked up, I couldn’t open my mouth without getting emotional. It was too much.

“And when Joe suggested the stretch break, what happened was one of the emotional highlights of the evening. I happened to be around a significant number of black attendees, and as I attempt to explain what I felt as we exchanged those words and held hands I am really at a loss for words.

“What happened tonight won’t solve the problems in the West End, at least immediately, and those of us who struggle with classical white liberalism must continue to find a way to make what we do match our lofty vision of justice and equality. We need help and we need the consistent stimulus. We want to go there but we don’t always know how to do that. Tonight was a great help.

“I am delighted to see that the dialogue will continue into March. We need more of this.”

~ Joe