It started out billed as a retreat for the Bishops: Fostering a culture of curiosity, compassion and courage, but quickly turned into something quite different, and even better.
For the first two days, from 8:00 in the morning until after 9:00 at night, we prayed together, heard meditations on racism, saw a screening of Traces of the Trade (http://www.tracesofthetrade.org -- the story of the DeWolf family, the largest slave trading family in the US). We shared with our table groups where we have fallen into the trap of stereotyping, being prejudiced, not seeing everyone as a beloved child of God as well as when we have been the target of prejudice.
We shared from a very personal, deep place.
By the end of the second day, we were all pretty exhausted, yet the exhaustion opened us up to share at an even deeper level. The honesty expressed was amazing and humbling to hear.
I kept on praying about this -- about my own prejudices and how they affect my ministry. About the prejudices I see in others around me -- and how that negatively impacts our ways of being Church together, of doing God's work in the world.
I thought about the last set of questions that we answer when we renew our baptismal covenant:
Will you continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers?
Will you persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord?
Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ?
Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?
Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?
The answer we are asked to give to all these questions is the same: I will, with God's help. I realized in prayer and reflection that that particular response is what we ALL need to be answering -- for it is only with God's help that we can break the chains of prejudice and work to become truly the Body of Christ.
Bishop Wayne Smith of Missouri offered a powerful reflection on racism and Ferguson -- a city deeply embroiled in racism in the state in which he and the churches of that diocese minister. I have invited him to be with us next year as we come together over the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend to remember -- and never forget-- that which has been done for us, understanding that the work Dr. King did is not finished yet. The Program Group on Black Ministries and I are working to have a series of events, including the screening of Traces of the Trade, either that weekend or before to highlight this sin and to work together as the Body of Christ in Los Angeles to eradicate it. We all need to advance a culture of curiosity, compassion and courage.
I leave you with this prayer from our Prayer Book:
For the Human Family
O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us; unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
.....I will, with God's help.
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