Wow — it’s been a busy summer! I’ve had a great time connecting with many of you at denominational events, chatting about our summer JUSTReading Club offering, I’m Still Here, publishing the discussion guide for our new book, Reconstructing the Gospel, leading a retreat for my seminary students, and yes, getting a little rest and relaxation in the mountains. 😊 Most recently, I had the privilege of ending the summer as the speaker for Eastern University’s Convocation, and I wanted to share a small excerpt of my message with you:
“On August of 1619, a ship appeared on this horizon, near Point Comfort, a coastal port in the British colony of Virginia. It carried more than 20 enslaved Africans, who were sold to the colonists. No aspect of the country that would be formed here has been untouched by the years of slavery that followed. On the 400th anniversary of this fateful moment, it is finally time to tell our story truthfully.”
These are the opening words of a recently launched initiative by the New York Times, titled “The 1619 Project.” The goal of the project is to “reframe the country’s history, understanding 1619 as our true founding, and placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of the story we tell ourselves about who we are.” This is a lofty goal, and thus far the project has been predictably praised and pilloried by the usual suspects. It is, however, also a noble and commonsense goal. For, until we are willing to tell the truth about ourselves — as individuals, as a country, as the Church — AND acknowledge the ripple effect of that truth on our present, and possibly our future, we will never attain to the even loftier (and more lasting goals) of embodied wholeness, the reality of all humans experiencing equality and the manifestation of their “inalienable rights of life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness,” and the expansive creation of God’s “beloved community.”
Friends, we are in a time where truth-telling and brave conversation are more important than ever. It is needed not only to help us heal wounds and strengthen relationships, but it also should lead us to informed, incisive and yet compassionate action that moves us toward truly becoming “beloved community.” I hope you will continue talking and walking with us as we seek to move further down the road to justice.
Grace and peace,