Given the nature of who we are as Tapestry and what we see as our vision and mission, I want to share some thoughts about how we can, and must, address issues of race and equity and justice and injustice and mercy, beginning at home. By home, I mean our Christian churches, and specifically the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) http://elca.org/.
I was born in Baltimore in 1966. When the riots happened in 1968, I was living with my pregnant mom and my dad in an all-Black middle class neighborhood. My dad was a youth worker at the church where I was the first white baby baptized. The only other white family that lived in the neighborhood was the pastor and his family.
My dad died of pancreatic cancer almost three years ago now and my mom has Alzheimers, so I have to rely on my memory of what they told me. (I encourage you, dear reader, to speak with your elders NOW! Listen to their stories while you can. You will learn so much and you will wish you had later. Listen to Story Corp and download their new app. Then let me know about a story you heard http://storycorps.org/). I was told that both our families were encouraged to leave for a couple of days so we would be safe. One of my parents told a story of someone running by them and telling them they better leave for their own safety.
I don’t remember any of this, of course, but I wonder what strides we’ve made toward racial and ethnic equality in our nation in the last 40+ years. And I wonder how our churches have helped further the work of being the Kingdom of God here in our own communities. One thing is to provide services for people–like food and clothing–and these things are good, but I wonder what would change if our churches and communities reflected the beauty of each other inside, and outside, the church doors.
Before being called to ministry as a pastor, I was a Spanish and English as a Second Language teacher for many years. My classrooms were segregated even when the halls were filled with students from many races and cultures. I began to look at the churches I attended and for they most part, they were, and are, segregated even when the streets of our neighborhoods are filled with people from many races and cultures.
So I wondered, and I still do, how we might form meaningful relationships with our church communities and truly learn to love and serve our neighbors. How might God break in to our broken and divided world if we take small steps and eat together and pray together? How might the Holy Spirit be at work among us when we are fed with the Bread of Life, together, at a Table that is prepared for all of us?
Well, this is what we ponder together at Tapestry–building relationships with people who are different from ourselves is hard work. But it is work that fills us with love and hope and the promise of a loving God whose son came into our midst to live among those who were different from him. And who were the same as him. Who came for Richfield and who came for Baltimore. Peace. Paz.