Some last photos from our whirlwind tour of Atlanta, Montgomery, and Selma. MLK and John Lewis were everywhere, in words and image, and rightly so. But I found myself moved especially on this visit by the witness of all those “ordinary” people who put themselves on the line for the cause of justice: the Freedom Riders and lunch counter protestors, the working people who walked during the Montgomery bus boycott, the men and women who crossed the bridge at Selma.
These words of Robert C. Wright, the Episcopal bishop of Atlanta, resonated with me: In addition to those “champions who we knew by name … it boggles the mind to think about the multitude of people who through minuscule militant acts contended with evil and found God mighty to save.”
In an essay I read on the plane home, Wright wrote that the American South is our Holy Land. It’s “the location where both the personal and the communal experience of God in past days occurred. The place where significance and guidance for present-day activities abound, in addition to the promise of continued relationship, identity, and even prosperity in the future with God. … The land is holy because labor and pain, joy and grief, birth and death, war and peace, prayer to and betrayal of God have happened on this land and therefore it is set apart.”
I also enjoyed much good conversation with my daughter, who is working hard in her professional life to foster a robustly inclusive workplace, and who Has been teaching me a lot.
It was a moving visit, as any visit to the Holy Land should be. And the ongoing question is, how am I changed by it?
*”The American South is Our Holy Land,” in “Living into God’s Dream,” edited by Catherine Meeks.
“Guided by Justice,” sculpture by Dana King honoring “the courage of black women who collectively walked thousands of miles to end racial segregation in public transportation” during the Montgomery bus boycott in 1955. At the National Memorial for Peace and Justice.
Another reminder that ordinary people working together can indeed change the world, but not without paying a price.
Certainly one would hope that facing our nation’s legacy of treating brown-skinned people as if they weren’t really human would create an awareness that would keep that from ever happening again, but consider that the first section of the museum brings alive the pain suffered when parents and children were torn apart and held in custody in distant places.tagTag PhotopinAdd Loca
Off to Atlanta for a combination family vacation and mini civil rights pilgrimage, something of a continuation of my journey through Lent with Layla F. Saad’s “White Supremacy and Me” workbook.
Seems appropriate, since Atlanta was the place where I first became aware of race in a way that I still vividly remember. There had been two black girls in my elementary school on Long Island; there were none in my school in Atlanta. I also observed the” white” and “colored” water fountains and restrooms in public places and thought them silly, but I couldn’t see the sinfulness in the segregation of a (faith-based, no less) school.
Not too surprising, since I was only 8 at the time, but I’m still learning to see what what I didn’t notice until others helped me expand my vision.
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.
~ John 13:34, from the reading for Maundy Thursday.
Still thinking Maundy Thursday thoughts about love here on this final day of waiting for Easter.
As that last meal begins, Jesus lays aside his outer garment, ties a towel around his waist, and begins to wash and dry the feet of his disciples. When Peter resists, Jesus tells Peter that if he can’t accept this act of love and care, “you have no share with me.”
Love can’t fully flourish except in relationship, and sometimes we—like Peter—find it even harder to accept love than to offer it. To let yourself be loved, you have to make yourself vulnerable. Opening a channel for love means revealing parts of yourself you might rather have kept hidden. It means admitting how much you need that love. It means acknowledging that you can’t make it on your own.
From Jean Vanier, the founder of the L’Arche communities where people with and without intellectual disabilities live and work together as partners: “To love someone is not first of all to do things for them, but to reveal to them their beauty and value … to reveal to them their capacities for life, the light that is shining in them.”
That is exactly what grace–the lived experience of God’s love—does for us.
The season of Lent is meant to help us let go of our resistance and and accept God’s love more and more.
So that when Easter dawns we can take up that challenge, to love one another, “just as I have loved you.”