Dismantling Racism & the Role of the Church…
Week 4: The Power of Presence
Presence. Perhaps one of the reasons our diverse pastoral cohorts are so generative is because these pastors spend three or four hours a month together for three years. They go away on retreats together. They travel together for a two-week pilgrimage in the Holy Land (nothing quite brings out the real self than extended travel!). In other words, they have occasion to build authentic relationships of trust, sometimes discord and reconciliation, and deep friendship. The kind of friendship where people can be honest with one another. In the end, such relationships transform not only individual but, also, society itself. While it’s important to do our homework and learn about, nothing quite takes the place of learning from – getting to know someone who is not like you well enough to learn their reality and, together forge new relationships that begin to heal our isolation.
Bryan Stevenson, criminal rights attorney, calls it, “getting proximate.” He writes, “I don’t think we’re free in this country. We’re burdened by our history. We have been creating this smog, this toxic result, this consequence of a history of racial inequality. And we can’t get free in this country until we change the narrative. We created this idea a long time ago that people are different based on their color and that narrative of racial difference is something we’ve got to confront. We have to get proximate in order to understand and solve these problems.”
How does your congregation “get proximate” to people who are not like you? Proximate enough to understand? That is how the church can begin to change the narrative and take leadership in healing the racial injustice that plagues our nation. The Apostle Paul speaks of Christians as being “agents of reconciliation.” Will we go to places that make us uncomfortable? You bet. Will we hear and learn things that make us uncomfortable? Yes, indeed. Will we be furthering the holy work of God’s kingdom? Yes and that is why, by God’s grace, we persist!