“The early Christians rejoiced when they were deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the Church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society.”
― Martin Luther King Jr., Letter from the Birmingham Jail
February was a powerful month to be discussing such topics as Racial Reconciliation and Peacemaking in the Midst of Violence here at the Yellow House. We are aware that we have lived a year, and march on into another, where these two marks of Jesus-following are crucial for the healing of our neighborhoods, nations, and world. Recent history has shown us that we still have much from which to heal, and we are encouraged to know that folks all over the world are dreaming that there may in fact be another way of doing life than through lenses of hate and violence for violence. In the small ways that we were able to participate in those dreams and conversations this month, we give thanks.
February started with a monthly Teaching and Family Meal that was a bit different than our usual speaker-audience set up. A living room of folks came together to read through reconciliation liturgy that had been crafted especially for the evening. Following time of songs and prayers, the group carved out space (that we so often need more of) to talk about what racial reconciliation and nonviolence have to say to our current world today through the Church at large. What cultures are we changing, promoting, overlooking? And does it look like the enemy-love, love-for-us-all way of Jesus?
A panel of wonderful men who lived, marched, suffered, and dreamt through the civil rights movements of the 60s came together in the Yellow House living room a few weeks ago to share their experiences, laments, and hopes for our world. With their experiences in pastoring, politicking, nonprofit founding, and friendship-making across lines of difference, Community Renewal founder Mack McCarter, Councilman Willie Bradford, and Pastor Calvin Austin brought stories of reality and hope to our home, and we were thankful for the time they offered.
In a practice of active forgiveness, our staff and interns this month took time to research the names, lives, and sentences of those who sit on death row in our state. The more we read the gospels, the harder it is to reconcile that death for death makes any sense to the patterns of God’s Kingdom. But that does not make it any easier to reach out to those whose crimes seem laced with hate, corruption, or apathy. However, there is enough grace to break our scared and hesitant hearts to realize that the seeds of good and evil can be found inside of all of us. Letters were written to the two Louisiana prisons where men and women from all sorts of walks in life are awaiting their fate amidst rounds and rounds of appeals. It is a powerful experiment in discovering the grace needed to forgive yourself, others, and the systems we’ve created together that do not trust God for His redemptive power.
Three things that took place this month that we could suggest for anyone in your own homes and places of dreaming: 1) we read through Preston Sprinkle’s book Fight: A Christian Case for Non-Violence , 2) we resurfaced Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail ", and 3) we planned a diversity dinner where everyone in the house was asked to invited someone “different" than they are (which unfortunately fell through due to the snowy weather).
- If you have ever wrestled with attempting to line up the enemy-loving words of Jesus in the New Testament with the God-sanctioned battles in the Old, with the American Christian take on war held in high esteem throughout many of our congregations…this may be a book for you. While Sprinkle doesn’t claim to have all the answers, and there was still much to discuss and wade through in conversation within our house, we believe he does offer a conversation that is needed at this time in our country and church’s history.
- To see how far we’ve come and how far we have yet to go, MLK’s letter is a powerful litmus test for where we stand concerning racial reconciliation in our churches today. It is worth a read (maybe two or three).
- With your small group, prayer group, or joining with a couple of families, have each person invite someone who is different from them (in age, race, sexual orientation, religion, economic status) to your living room for a night of potluck and conversation. Fix your plates and ask those in the room to go around and answer three simple questions: Who are you? What is one time in your childhood that you felt like an outsider or different? When is a time that you felt like you belonged? What is powerful in moments carved out such as these is that we realize we don’t have to be so scared, and that probably, we have much more in common than we do that divides us. It is worth your evening, we promise.
We pray that God infuses your days ahead with dreams that question the systems and patterns of this world that simply are not working in alignment with the good news of Jesus, and that we may all make a little more margin to talk, lament, and hope for another world that is possible and in many ways, at hand.
-Britney & The Yellow House Family
For further reading inspired by our conversations this month, check out...