Genesis 1: 25-27
(February 7, 2021-5th Epiphany)
Betty Pries is someone Heather and I have worked with for a couple of years now. Betty, among many other things is a leadership consultant who specializes in churches. She’s helped us develop our team ministry. Recently she wrote an article for her newsletter on churches and the work of anti-racism. It began with her sharing an old Buddhist/Christian story that goes like this: A woman living near a monastery one day encounters a monk outside the monastery walls and asks: What do you do in there all day? The monk smiles and says: We fall down and we get up again.
Betty was reminded of the story after listening to an interview with Ibram X. Kendi, an American historian and anti-racism scholar. Kendi suggested that the work of anti-racism is never done – not institutionally or internally within us. None of us ever fully “arrives” as an anti-racist. Those committed to anti-racism are forever on a journey of becoming anti-racist and, along the way, each of us will fall down multiple times. The challenge is found in how to recognise our falling down and in knowing how to get up again.
Black History Month in the church reminds us of the need to engage the work of anti-racism in order to be true to our faith, of living into the truth that all people are created in the Divine image. Black History Month asks the church to get comfortable with falling down and getting up again. As Betty Pries says in her article our faith tradition has tools to help us in this work—confession helps us recognize when we’ve fallen down, grace helps us to get up again.
This week we’re going to talk about confession, the falling down bit. Next week we’ll focus on grace and getting up again. I want to share with you a reflection by René August, South African Anglican Priest, reconciliation Trainer and veteran of the anti-apartheid movement on the need for confession in this work…
Please visit parkuc.ca to view the video on the service recording for February 7, 2021…
Confession/repentance, humility and honesty about the pervasiveness of racism in our societies, our institutions, our lives put us on the path to partnership with God in stripping away the layers that cover up the divine image in which we are all created. For some Black people confession might involve the humility of saying “I’ve bought into the lies that have denied the image of the Creator in me.”
For others, white people specifically, it might be the humility of listening, of acknowledging the ways in which racism infect our lives and the privilege afforded by skin colour. It is the humility to fall down, to acknowledge that racism obscures the divine image in white people as well. Salem Debs, is a Waterloo based anti-racism educator. In a recent Facebook post addressing white people at the start of Black History Month she reminded followers of the social justice maxim that none of us will be free until all of us are free. Black History Month is also a call for white people to fully embrace their humanity, which racism has eroded. Debs quotes Lilla Watson, an Indigenous Elder and Educator from Australia, “If you have come here to help me you are wasting your time, but if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” As halting and prone to falling as the journey may be, as followers of Jesus, confession is the tool that allows us to begin to walk together and discover the image of God in each other.