January 25-27, I will be out of the office enjoying the retreat center in Hot Springs, Arkansas where the Lilly Endowment provides lodging and meals for the Hendrix Institute for Clergy Civic Engagement. This is the second time I will meet with the group of colleagues from Columbia, MO, Boston, Massachusetts, Dallas, Texas, and several places in Arkansas. This time, the focus of our meeting is engaging issues of racial justice in our communities. Leading our session will be Rev. Willis Johnson, the United Methodist pastor at Wellspring Church in Ferguson, MO. He was photographed by the Washington Post in the midst of some of the protests helping to calm down an angry young man in that city after the death of Michael Brown, and was subsequently interviewed by NPR twice in very powerful interviews to give thoughts on the situation there. You can listen to those interviews at the following links:
I look forward to the time together with my new colleagues and friends (all Hendrix graduates), and am busy reading, writing, and preparing to dedicate some significant time to this subject, as I have been all year with my monthly meetings with Groundwork organized by the YWCA. In the meantime, I’m supposed to be finding a civic or community leader to take to lunch. If you have a recommendation, let me know! Also, I’m preparing a “racial autobiography” to prepare me for the conversations. The questions might be beneficial to you as well to prompt thoughts about this pertinent topic in a month when we celebrate a national holiday dedicated to Martin Luther King, Jr., who confronted the soul of the nation about race.
- How has your life been shaped by your race?
- How have your attitudes about race and toward persons of other races been shaped by home, church, school and work environments?
- What relationships have reshaped/changed your life in relationship to race?
- Have you experienced racial discrimination?
- Have you experienced racial privilege?
- Have you had mentors of a different race?
- What is your earliest memory of racial problems/division?
- What have been the key turning points in your life in relationship to race?
- What are your earliest memories of the beauty, power and promise of racial diversity?
- What role has the media played in your self-understanding as well as your relationships with persons of a different race?
- What biblical texts or holy readings have most influenced you in relationship to racial identity and race relations?
Spend some time with Romans 12:1-5. Allow God, by way of this text, to raise further questions of you.