This week I have been on a deeply good retreat with colleagues from around the Episcopal Church. These bishops, priest, and one deacon hailed from Connecticut, California, Costa Rica, Liberia, and many other places besides. All now minister in the United States. We are clergy who gather with a particular set of shared commitments: to the missionary call of Christ, hope-filled vision, respect for difference, creative leadership, spiritual and numerical growth, and peer learning. And this year our particular chosen theme was "Racial reconciliation and discipleship in the missionary church."
To be sure, it was not a subject we sought to "solve" in three days. But we sought to strengthen ourselves hand in hand as we looked for God's hope. We had a shared sense that the time was worthwhile; that we had taken up a meaningful theme, and been changed together. Gratefully, I learned so much that I would never to try to share it all in one e-news! And moreover, it was the kind of learning that really needs to happen in person, in our own bodies and with space for story, silence, and the next story.
Today I'll simply offer some words for reflection from a figure who informed our discussion.
Verna Dozier is an Episcopal laywoman from the D.C area. After a career in teaching, she found herself invited to teach in the church, theologically, and took this work up profoundly. Her book The Dream of God has influenced our Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, who often says, "We work together to move from the nightmare that this world often is, into God's Dream for what it can become."
"Because the Bible is a theological book, it is a book of wrestlings, not a book of answers. In each age the people have to struggle to hear the word of the Lord for their time, and sometimes their hearing is keener than at other times."
"I will live by the best I can discern today. Tomorrow I may find out I was wrong. Since I do not live by being right, I am not destroyed by being wrong.
Racial reconciliation may feel huge and beyond our ability, or conversely, as though it were just one more of the "issues" of our day, politicized and game-like.
This is not so to the Christian. To the Christian, racial reconciliation is an inherent part of the complete reconciliation that we seek with all persons. And to an American Christian, it is reconciliation across our particularly profound chasm of sin. Verna Dozier breathes grace into this work, inviting us to be not right, but doing our best and staying on the way.