Sunday, April 14, 2024

ENACTING Beloved Community

This is a phrase that undergirds the work of C. Anthony Hunt (or here) as well as a curricular goal of one of United Seminary’s Immersion Experiences, required for completion of the Masters of Divinity degree. This year, several international students were not going to be able to leave the States and then return for completion of their degrees…visa issues. A strange convergence of Homeland Security stipulations and my administration of an Immersion program therefore led to this past week’s offering of a Beloved Community pilgrimage to Alabama, what Hunt calls “the fertile crescent” of human rights. He mentors a Doctor of Ministry cohort for United, and I serve as the group’s faculty consultant. It’s too soon to know fully the fruit of the journey, but so many pieces fit into a forming image of blessing, completion, hope. I am exhausted but grateful, wanting to catch at least a few of these images onto the “page.”

Twenty six pilgrims–about half DMin students, half Masters of Divinity students–arrived into Birmingham, Alabama on Sunday night to begin the journey. United blessed us with a bus able to get us to everywhere we needed to be that week–Selma, Montgomery, then other community-sites in B’ham itself. The concluding–and celebratory–day was in Atlanta. There, our Beloved Community family of pilgrims got to steep viscerally in the ancestral lineages of the Black social gospel in both the presence of inductees and their communities come to celebrate them. (Shout-out to Dr. G. Martin Young, now living in Atlanta after working with us at United for several years; gratitude you tracked me down in the aisle  to say hello!) That day ended with a visit to the MLK, Jr. Center there on Auburn Ave (“Sweet Auburn”). 

Each morning our day would begin with a time of devotions, led by one of the “discovery groups” or smaller group teams–named Faith, Hope, Love, and Peace. Each night, a time of debrief and reflection-questions would close our time together. The pilgrimage itself concluded with a closing “circle” and then holy communion, shared serving one another in song. Enacting Beloved Community, a community of scholarship and of shared spiritual practice. I already miss the call to attention, "Beloved! Family! [then some announcement or instruction...]." I startled to send a text to the strand of doctoral students with an "FYI, Family..." This shared web is more beautiful and Gift than I could really say.

The induction invitation altered the itinerary from the previous pilgrimage, October of 2022, but the group got still to meet local leaders and elders in the Civil Rights movement all week, as well as visit actual sites on the land–National Historical Parks/Sites with interpretive centers, historical markers interpreted by Hunt, even the Edmund Pettus Bridge so visually-significant in the attempted and then completed Marches to Montgomery back in 1965. Brown Chapel there in Selma had been under renovations in 2022, but was open this time. We got to meet Joyce Parrish O'Neal, a Selma “foot soldier,” which means someone who was actually there on Bloody Sunday in March of 1965. She told her story and led us in song there in the fellowship hall. 

In Birmingham, we visited the 16th St. Church before Bishop Harry L. Seawright, Executive Director Brandon Cleveland, author-scholar-professor Tyshawn Gardner blessed us with their welcome and Work, speaking with us at St. John AME Church in B’ham (blessed by Pastor Ronald Sterling). We visited the church of the Rev. Fred Shuttleworth and the Daniel Payne Legacy Village Foundation, experiencing the school that is thriving there as well as the grocery soon to bless shoppers in need of foodstuffs. Niki’s West has offered good southern fare as well as a back room for table-fellowship and continued engagement with speakers. That day concluded with a visit to the Birmingham Jail where King was held, where he pulled together scraps of argument that became the Letter from the Birmingham Jail, one of the most important documents of the twentieth century. 

Montgomery’s visit included The Legacy Museum with the Peace & Justice Monument, along with several of us visiting the Freedom Monument Sculpture Park for the first time–open only about two weeks!--because we got on “the wrong bus” by accident. Holy Accident, as several DMin students were able to track their ancestors’ probable locations in the database there, converging ancient census information with or surnames’ information. This is huge for those of African descent, whose ancestors were ripped from their homes and separated from families in the chattel-slavery history of the States. 

Atlanta welcomed us in good time into Morehouse College, the induction ceremony for the MLK, Jr. Collegium of Scholars and a formal address by renown scholar Gary Dorrien on the Black social gospel lineages, given he’s just completed a three-volume work published through Yale University Press. (See A Darkly Radiant Vision, volume 3). We spoke afterward of some poignancy, some tenderness, receiving such an august address from a white man in a roomful of Black social gospel lineages. I'm not sure but something in me was both afraid and healed in that: afraid for the alignment with unhealed whiteness in the room, healed to hear the congregation/audience responding with such heart and affirmation to Dorrien, touched it could happen.

The birth-home of Martin Luther King, Jr. was under renovation this time, but the historical Ebenezer Baptist Church offered the grounded and engaging retellings of history-narrative, given by park ranger, Doug Coyle. The MLK, Jr. Center offers exhibits with interpretive centers across several blocks of the neighborhood.

The itinerary is what pilgrims initially focus on as the curriculum of the trip. The sites are significant, pivotal, telling. The implicit curriculum, however, is the energy that drives the whole Immersion: enacting beloved community. Being in the liminal spaces between events or sites. Traveling with a wildly diverse group, some of whom don’t even consider this history to be connected to their own histories at all. Table fellowship. Devotions. Song. Weariness shared in walking, hours on the bus, listening to interpretive histories together.

One actually hears history differently if you are in a group as diverse as our own was this time. Our soul energies bump up against one another–easily and with difficulty–as each of us responds or reacts to the stories being told and heard.

Which means the trip for me as a co-leader is always exhausting. I grow inordinately sensitized to how we human beings behave amidst painful retellings, amidst histories we wish weren’t true, amidst histories we think are not about “us” but about “them.” Every human being does this, of course–pushing away painful stories, detaching from painful feelings too hard to feel or express in a group of unknown companions. But if I’m not consciously surrendering to the Spirit’s purposes for each pilgrim–which I will never know, of course, because it’s their walk with Godde*–I can take on responsibility and even sensations of guilt for things that are not mine to hold. When you travel with a group of adult-learners, you need to trust they are receiving what they are there to receive. i.e. You cannot as easily approach an international student and chastise him/her for detaching from the group by constantly being on their phone. Or perhaps I should have? I don't think so. The cultures represented this time had such honor/shame dynamics that it would have shamed, further dividing the group... I don't know. My learning here is that I will articulate a policy for pilgrims with phones, inviting conscious reflections for why are you on your phone when someone in our beloved community is speaking? Sometimes detachment is a necessary defense mechanism when someone’s emotional intelligence is so underdeveloped as to be unable to be present in horrific retellings of human history. Sometimes life-in-the-church-at-home pulls us away from the group. Either was hard to see, to forbear.

And in the end? Almost all the participants were able to build the bridges from their own cultural backgrounds to this difficult if resilient and inspiring human and Gospel story of individuals and communities of faith in the mid-twentieth century into today’s backlash/return of inhumane behaviors gaining foothold once again. Students made the connections of our story as human beings, image-bearers of Godde for one another, giving one another hope that the world can become a better place if/when we enact beloved community. The African proverb, of course: I am because we are.

It’s not easy, nor is it comfortable. People are people, bringing their own ancestral woundedness into the mix, seeking consciously or unconsciously to be healed in a community strong enough to hold the Center, able to witness the pain while it is felt…and then potentially released. For now. For this time. A student made connections to his own church community in which religious leaders are being assassinated by the military. Another woman awakened to her own arrogance in seeing these stories as unrelated to her own, now recognizing what happens to one of us happens to all of us. The Black social gospel tradition spoke and sang in many of our pilgrims, blessing all of us. I received inordinate blessing myself before wearily crawling into the car-ride home, finally letting myself receive a benedictory blessing from a sister in word and song, finally letting myself weep-in-public, which I rarely do in my professorial-self. 

So I come home to my own beloved family, eager to rest for some days by Lake Superior–She Who is the Biggest–while I dive into the sacred anthropology books of Gardner, the huge tomes of Dorrien, and an unexpected recommendation of a friend before I even left, The Garden Within by a Dr. Anita Phillips. May these days of immersion have served their holy purpose in Spirit's tether. May the sacred work of all we met, all with whom we traveled, continue to bless the world in action, enacting, Beloved Community.

*Godde (pronounced just like 'God' but including More) is my written expression that names a Force or Flow that never lets us go. Part way between God and Goddess (a term difficult for so many Christians to forbear), honoring of my own Pennsylvania-Dutch lineage within German-esque sensibilities (Gott), this word found me in some process-writing amidst my own conscious feminine awakening. Language matters and the church's language persistently neglects and abandons women's voices, experience. This term allows me my own integrity as a conscious feminine theologian while also honoring the faith community is not remotely for the F/feminine, is (un)consciously hostile to Her.

Monday, October 10, 2022

Retracing the Steps of Freedom...Getting the Poisoned Arrow Out

This past week danced with the theme of reconsidering citizenship. A friend and colleague, Dr. C. Anthony Hunt, and I co-led an immersion-pilgrimage Retracing the Steps of Freedom in what he calls the Holy Land of Alabama. We took 25 students & friends/family on a 6-day Civil Rights’ pilgrimage to Birmingham, Selma, and Montgomery. I remember cocking my head a bit in disbelief when he named this South-land as holy. Huh? I’ve never previously felt any need to go to Alabama, and certainly didn’t consider it holy.

This afternoon, having begun to rest & listen from the journey, I get more of what he was saying. I could even say I’m just beginning to feel the truth of it. Which is probably part of the reason that on Thursday I purchased a rosemary plant from the Birmingham Botanical Gardens intended for him. She is a Holy Land plant-ally associated with Jerusalem for me. Of course, then I learned he’d flown to Birmingham, with no interest or capacity to lug along a fairly large plant. So now I tend this plant for him at my home in Ohio. Perhaps there’s something holy about that.


It was a trip of academic attention, quiet grace and (seemingly) unbearable paradox. Some of us were Masters of Divinity students, completing an Immersion Experience requirement for completion of the degree. Others were Doctor of Ministry students, completing their required peer-sessions always scheduled between August & January Intensives. A mother, a husband, a wife, a daughter also companioned the students and leaders, expanding the reach of the journey into more generations, more affiliation. We were an inter-racial community, held gently and graciously as we journeyed through highly racialized traumas and increasingly necessary remembrances. Grace abounded, even as wounds danced and selves had to be tended with care. A small band of beloved community pilgrims even walked across the Edmund Pettus bridge the same day that the first arguments were presented to the US Supreme Court to gut the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Seemingly unbearable, though it also felt divinely coincidental, a walk of hope amidst a people&land plagued with hopelessness and fear.

Reading for my own soul-nourishment today, I came across a Buddhist story that seems prescient for whatever else might come here... Paul Knitter retells an oft-told parable of a man shot with a poisoned arrow. “There he is, lying on the road with the arrow sticking out of him, when some friends come to his rescue. But before they can do anything, he starts plying them with all kinds of questions: Who did this? Why did he do it? Where was he standing? What kind of arrow is it? … Gently but firmly, the man’s friends tell him to shut up. Stop all that talking. We have to get this arrow out.” (pg. 60)

Ironic for a blog-post of many words, but the truth of the parable beckons so forcefully in me.

Stop all that talking. We have to get this arrow out.

The Buddha’s wisdom brings attentions to removing the arrow of suffering from our lives more than the human propensity to speculate, argue, posture. Here I’m feeling all the media-driven hubbub about Critical Race Theory or policing educational settings where our country’s history is being taught or whatever ideological rights’ issue polls say will divide voters and disenchant suburban housewives. That talk. The kind of talk that pretends to be about political reconciliation but which is still defined by the wounds, even continues the woundings, while refusing the humanity of so many of us. To honor diverse perspectives. To open hearts vulnerably into mysteries we'll never see/sense if we don't open our eyes and hearts to them...and the pain they bring.


The most basic wisdom of the pilgrimage was being Beloved Community as we traveled through historically-represented racialized traumas. Each of us experienced all we saw differently, with differing levels of consciousness and expression, but we were pilgrims together, from start to finish. Being Beloved Community. Practicing, learning, (re-)learning how… When one white woman named her experience in a way that was offensive to me, others could hold it with grace. When a black man vented about the wounds that simply run too deep to imagine it could be any other way, others could hold it with grace. The group held the experiences of each, even as the historical tragedies so often ignored today surely dampened the speech of each of us, at different times. We have to get this arrow out.


The Beloved Community was large enough, diffuse enough, to hold even my husband and me as we journeyed through these days together. He has a way of processing that is quite familiar to me but also one which I have had to refuse to hold in these last years. His work is not my own, nor even mine to hold at times. I love him fiercely and it was a challenging week. He’s now felt things he cannot unfeel, things that will ‘cook’ in him for times to come. I’m so thankful he leaned into the journey AND we got to journey together, soul-partners that we are. I also need to own that I want him to be in new places, future places, right now. I know I’m not in charge, nor do I know what he needs—only Godde knows that—and yet I want what I want. We have to get this arrow out.

So it was important for me to drive the first shift of our journey home to Ohio, to drive Brian and me back out of Alabama, as my work/path had taken us in. “I still don’t like the South,” Brian said as we crossed over into Tennessee. I can’t say that I disagree.

I did find myself saying something I’d not have said, but for this experience. “Yes, there’s so much to the South that needs healing, even confrontation. But some of the most courageous, persistent and soul-forced people I've ever learned about also lived in the South. Live in the South now. The Black church, the African-American leaders and civil rights’ laborers...they are also the South, for me, now.” We have to get this arrow out.


My rosemary plant will continue to invite me to listen for all that is holy in the fertile crescent of Civil Rights history, this Alabama. For now, learning about community-organizing and development from Mr. Brandon M. Cleveland of the Danial Payne Legacy Village Foundation, hearing the stories of Ms. Joyce Parrish O’Neal (Selma march and movement ‘foot-solder’), walking the ritual-march to the capital at the Interpretive Center with Rev/Mr. Trini L. Moye, learning about black ecclesial theology from Dr. Esau McCauley, and the countless formal and informal conversations with fellow pilgrims along the way…these things are holy now.

Because of them and our journeying, I can better feel the unbearable ironies so many live every day…amidst the enslavement of white or power-over minds to an idea of our country that has never quite existed, nor does it therefore need to be defended through blind acquiescence to stories we were told in grade school. We have to get this arrow out.


Part of what feels holy is some answer to my own prayer. An idea is percolating in response to my question(s) surrounding What to do with all the toxic white masculinity that surrounds me/us so? How are we to love the ones who refuse love, those who profess love while entranced in fear-drenched hatreds that only masquerade as "Christian love"? And how to do this without judgment or projection? Enacting MLK's Beloved Community is clearly an avenue, a practice, a path. Academic attention, quiet grace, unbearable paradox. Nonviolence, even as one could argue the moral conscience of the nation has eroded and publicizing media will offer little protection of classical civil disobedience unto reconciliation, peace. We need to enter in anyway...together.

Within that, a concrete idea has begun to grow within me: identifying and researching the documented lynchings in Ohio, so to work toward memorializing each one on the land on which it happened. It's already been done in Athens, Ohio, for instance, in the Christopher Davis Community Remembrance Project.

Perhaps documenting and naming racialized terror that happened not that long ago...memorializing and honoring the innocent dead...perhaps these could be small steps toward awakening more of us in Dayton, Ohio to the racialized terror being ignored and refused, all around us.

Or perhaps this researching-work is simply for me, so to visit the land(s), to sing over the aching dirt... I don't know. Yet.

Sunday, January 16, 2022

Tell This Story...

“Next time someone asks you for your story of race, tell this one.”

These words have simmered in me for weeks now. Many aspects of a mid-December Fire&Water retreat have simmered in me, held in a patience-of-spirit to let them cook for a while. Sort themselves into wheat and chaff? Distill the unnecessary away from the necessary? Come to a sense of seasoning and slow-cooked flavors? I dunno, to be honest. This morning, these words converge with awareness of the weekend, the increasing yearning I feel each year to participate actively somehow in the Martin Luther King, Jr. memorialization, beyond a white-woman’s nod of respect and thanksgiving. 

It’s not insignificant that a F&W friend’s interest in a previous post emerged this week, with resonances for her own writing/leadership work. A couple others have also now expressed interest in the intersections of Christian theology and white supremacy, to which I bring the work of Willie James Jennings and The Christian Imagination. My naming this is clearly not an original observation, by any means...that there is a connection deep in the roots of the Christianity in the USA historically AND right now. I have tended to observe from the sidelines, however, quite distrustful of the politicizing and the woundedness with which Americans in popular discourse engage 1) even the suggestion that Christian theology has, at its roots, a formative force in shaping white supremacy, and 2) race-reconciliation conversations in the cyberspace/social media worlds. I don’t engage in things I cannot digest healthily, and the toxicity and volume in media-discourse here are simply too overwhelming for healthy digestion, no matter your skin color.

So…this is not a “post” on “race,” though it is. It is not even a peg in the argument that Christian theology helped create the toxic brew that IS white supremacy, though I know it has. But these words are a heart-felt response to the request and/or invitation of a new F&W friend to “tell the story” I first learned to be one of “race” on Saturday evening, December 11th, about 11:30 p.m. in a fire-placed living room, with a lively game of Spades going on with other friends in the kitchen.

The antecedents that make this storytelling possible are too numerous to really recount here, but each contributed to one of the most honest discussions exploring being human together, across-amidst race in the USA, that I have ever had in a room with four white faces and four black faces. We were sitting in the living room, couches and comfy chairs, having played several rounds of a two-team game of #CultureTags. We had spent days tending a communal fire outside, including amidst a tornado watch and severe thunderstorms that required us to “place a tent-top” over it for it to survive the onslaught of the waters. Yet eight of us (to my recollection) sat in the living room, just talking. No agenda. No place we were trying to get to…

One of the white women in the group made an observation from her own work in anti-racist, now more integrative, reconciliatory work. She may have asked a question of us all which I’ve now forgotten. (As this is my re-telling, I’ll name how I’ve come to hold this…which differs from “what actually happened” and “who said what,” just to be clear. I’m renown for poor memory about specifics like that). She comes from an Italian lineage, with awareness of the stories of European ancestry. She used a phrase “left out in the cold.” She spoke of her own awareness of an ancestral wound in her own line: you abide by and conform to the group’s norms, or literally, you can be left out in the cold to die.

European ancestry, collective from before memory, dealt with cold-climate and the threats to survival by which such cold confronted the group’s survival. Unaware of anything special to come, we began to muse about this tension between “aligning with the community to survive” and “leading the community in new directions” of deeper evolution, more compassionate human being, greater awareness and consciousness.

Another strand for me, seemingly unrelated, emerged when I shared my own befuddlement at the lack of judgment or anger, even rage, against the elders of these new friends, African American men and women who have faced crises and challenges I cannot begin to imagine. Things that I see as physical or emotional abandonment, even abuse. The vice-grip of poverty with addictions that result in persistent poverty, overcome only in faith and a tenacious will, communal wisdom. How can they not be enraged, furious, even accusatory of their parents, their elders?

This question arose in me because of my own story, of course. While I know my parents provided for me beyond reproach–materially, physically, in all the ways that can be seen and communally lauded–I yet reached adulthood as a deeply dissociated, disembodied little girl in a masculinized shell of a body, traumatized by shame and guilt given fuel within Protestant Puritan Christianity.

I was unable to name my desires as sacred, unable to imagine my own story mattered or could be seen as beautiful. That I could be loved for who I am more than what I have accomplished, what I do. That I am loveable as I am, regardless of whether my family is proud of me. The little girl I was, the full-throated fierce woman I am now, only came together amidst years–and I mean years–of re-mothering (by two anam cara spirit-friends and countless circles of women) until I learned how to hold myself in that Love.  This journey to myself as a conscious feminine woman who knows she has value beyond any of the giftings and failings of her family has taken decades. You can pray for my folks, my family...because it has also been one of seemingly unending anger and rage–anger at my parents for their refusals to learn their own emotional selves, work (though that is clearly not their first value/choice in this lifetime, which must be honored); at my family line for preferring our own myth of specialness instead of reality, a Hess-ness that can overshadow wounds and gifts alike; my religious tradition for choosing persistent ignorance and refusals to see a historical tradition canNOT be more important than one person wounded and in the corner, silenced and dying. I am a lava-eruption of anger when it gets nicked just right…[...and blessedly, the souls of my folks chose this way to be in my own life so that I would do this soul-work's all precisely as it needed to be...]

…and yet... I named this decades-long experience of anger/rage in my own story…and how I am most befuddled how it is not the experience of those who have so much more to be furious about than I do from their elders. 

There were other voices, other stories, that wove into this tension…but whatever all the strands were here converged into a braided strand that snapped the white faces in the room to attention in some way, to exchanged glances and eyes meeting eyes with recognition. Something about our shared European-ancestral lines where you align and conform or you are left out in the cold to die and (for me) this weight of rage & judgment that I carry today snapped some energy into the room.

The black faces in the room SAW us, saw us white folks seeing something in one another that we all recognized but which was foreign to each of them as black. Each of us would describe this differently, of course, but this is what has been cooking in me…

Judgment and rage against one’s own elders was incomprehensible for all the black people in the room. Again and again, I heard brothers and sisters of African-American descent speak their unconditional love and respect of their elders, not because they had earned it per se (though many obviously had and many obviously had not) but because they knew their elders’ love for them was unconditional. It was never even a question for them, to question, to ever consider as conceivable that "love" could be conditional. The four black voices in the room had spoken of the unconditional love they knew in their families. Their elders were doing the best they could do, in unimaginable and overwhelmingly difficult circumstances in Jim-Crow, civil-rights-era advocacy and plain living in hostile society(ies). Regardless of any failings–physical or emotional abandonment, neglect in back-breaking poverty, cycles of addiction and more–these four black human beings knew their love shared in family was unconditional. There was sadness, outrage at injustice, so much necessary to grieve, but no judgment or rage against their elders.

This is probably what poked my own disbelief and befuddlement, because I do not know that. I don't know what unconditional love feels like, as mixed up as it is with performances of all kinds. All of the four white people in the room said they didn't know that either, within their own families. And the four black voices spoke with shock and disbelief… Surely we cannot have meant that? each asked in his/her own way. One white person after another told the story of having to perform so to be seen by their family, by the larger community as worthy, as loveable. One was from elementary school, required to behave a certain way or be shunned by her own mother, by her friends. Mine was from kindergarten and early elementary school. Another named how it plays out now in herself amidst her own family, being a mother and a wife and another as a religious leader. We might call it the overwhelming poverty of the performative that drenches white communities, continuously remaining unconscious of the need to perform in order to be worthy, to have value, in society’s or family’s eyes. Continuously needing to remain unconscious of this lack, this emptiness, with few to no collective-communal skills to actually face the unbearable shame, shaming, that will surely mean a dying of some kind.

I want to return for a moment too, to the black shock and disbelief. Four black voices spoke with shock and disbelief…Surely we cannot have meant that? We really don’t know that our family loves us unconditionally? I can still see my new friend’s face, trying to comprehend or put it together inside herself. And I saw a wave of empathy and sadness cross her face, her entire body. She sat back finally, and threw her hands up in the air. “If I had known that, I would have dealt with the white-woman boss in my previous job totally differently,” she said. “I cannot imagine…” she trailed off. There was an overwhelming sadness in me that I finally had access to…I could feel my own sadness as my own…and it was seen by someone I respect and yet do not know well. I grieved a little that night--welcomed this sadness, knowing that it was seen.

The eight of us sat in stunned disbelief, silence, even wonder, looking at one another, unsure of what had just happened. Earlier that week, we had been held in a tightly facilitated “tell your story of race” session, so my new friend of African descent said to me, “Next time someone asks you your own story of race, tell this one.” This is one of my stories of race, whether politicized and civic debates on race and anti-racist work agree. Many of these voices would say it's not their white story or their black story. I'm not invested in those back-and-forths, here.

My own story would not be complete without deep belly gratitude for my own family that after fracturing, even shunning me for a time, did return to a reconciling relationship for us, though we are really care-full and tender now with one another. The fact remains that we do not know unconditional love in our family, nor are we particularly emotionally adept with our frailties, shadows, broken-places. We sever, judge, try to rationalize it all, then perhaps come back into overt emotional connection. (I have learned that we're always emotionally connected, even if we have utterly no contact for long periods, so by overt I mean "intentional" and "practiced again." Connection-in-aversion is simply deep-attachment, but negative or painful, suffering, as Buddhists might say).

With utter faithfulness and a genuinely deep heart, my father continues his struggles to receive love and know that he matters regardless of whether he does anything at all. I would say the same for my mother, though her own physical challenges have meant that she’s more practiced being just as she is, without obsessions over accomplishment. I don’t know my sister well enough to know where she would fall in this tension, but I’d guess she’s still imprisoned with it in some fashion, giving it intensely Conservative-Christian language. But maybe not. Her religious choices have meant she’s at a further periphery from the highly elitist, overly-intellectual norms of my extended Hess-ness family, whom I love and adore, and who do NOT know unconditional love very easily, if at all. My beloved husband is completely enthralled to this work-for-love-and-approval wound/reality, as he is a practicing pastor in a suburban, largely white congregation.

Remember: this is my retelling of my story–my own family would disagree, I’m sure, even refuse and want to push it away. I learned from my earliest years that achievement was more important than my little girl’s heart and embodied experiences, stories. Not out of malice or neglect from my folks, but because to succeed in our largely white, homogenous community meant achieving in school, achieving in music, becoming an establishment figure with great success in a sacred vocation. The woundedness in my folks and therefore in me here is this damning separation/being separated from unconditional love that other human beings on our planet actually DO know. I don’t know HOW they can know this–it is not my experience–but clearly, it is an act of Godde to KNOW it. Other white people won't have this story of race, but perhaps more of us will than can admit it openly...because to admit it means unconformity to their own white families, and a deep, vagrus-nerve fear of being left out in the cold.

And this is only my retelling of an event that changed my life because of commitment in Fire&Water, and the commitment of those who continue to walk together, complicated human beings on a sacred journey toward deeper healing, forgiveness, maybe even reconciliation some day (that I doubt any of us will live long enough to see, truly, fully, but no matter…). I would name you by name, but hereby honor your privacy and intimacy until/or unless you ask me to name more. I do welcome the other lenses on this story, which is not just my own anymore.

This is one of my own race stories then, emergent because it could unfold gently, after deep-belly laughter, with softened hearts and empathy across difference. Thank you, friend, for requesting me to tell it.

I bow to the imagined, unbearable challenge that empathy can be, perhaps always is here in our fragmented and polarized world, but again, with Godde, nothing is impossible.

Trust the divine order of things, I hear (QR). Once you’ve already surrendered, all of this becomes available. To me. To You. To Us.

We ARE one another; we belong to one another.

ENACTING Beloved Community

This is a phrase that undergirds the work of C. Anthony Hunt (or here ) as well as a curricular goal of one of United Seminary’s Immersion...