Just over a week ago, on the federal holiday for Martin Luther King, Jr’s birthday, Christ Church was open for a feast of words. We held a day of readings from the works of Dr. King. From noon until 7:00 p.m., sermons and speeches by Dr. King were read by a variety of people from the church and the community. Over fifty people, in addition to the 16 readers who had signed up in advance, came to listen, with some being moved to join in the readings and one gentleman offering song to enrich the day.

At the day of readings, there was a sense of joy, of challenge, and of deep honor for participating in the day. We heard the repetition of various themes in this sample of Dr. King’s work. The dream that became famous in his speech to the March on Washington was also shared in the Great March on Detroit of a few months earlier. In several sermons, he preached about social ills, going along with the crowd, and how we are to behave as Christian disciples. Dr. King also pointed to revolution and the changes in government that have happened, from the American Revolution in 1776 to the peaceful transfer of power in the birth of the nation of Ghana.

Christ Church borrowed the idea for a day of readings from Christ Church Cathedral in St. Louis and I’m grateful for the witness, encouragement, and assistance from their dean, the Very Rev. Mike Kinman. I’ve been hoping that we might do this for a few years and given the response to the day, we will continue to offer this day of readings.

So why was 2015 the year to start? The catalyst for holding this event was the series of occurrences, legal decisions, and protests this fall which highlighted the continuing divisions, tensions, and differences between the experience of being white in America and being black in America. The clergy and staff at the church wondered what could we do – we recognize that this gap is not just a societal issue but an issue of faith and spirituality as well. We fail to respect the dignity of every human being as individuals, as a congregation, as a community, as a nation. Not everyone and everyday, but we do. This is part of our fallen nature and it shows that while we may be on the path to building the Beloved Community and making God’s reign and kingdom manifest on earth, we are not there yet.

Spending the day steeping in the words of Dr. King does not change life in Ferguson or in Alexandria. But it does remind us of God’s call to justice and how we are stronger when we work together. It also reminds us of how important it is to take time to listen to each other, to hear deeply the experience of another person, especially whose experience is different from mine. Our work at Christ Church is not done. Yes, we have done work on the racial history of Christ Church before. We have had reconciliation services in the past. But that work is not complete, not finished, not done.

This winter and spring, Christ Church will offer opportunities for conversation in a small group setting to talk about race. More information will be available via email and on the church’s website. Even if you can’t join us for these conversations, I hope that you will take some time in self-examination of your own practices and thinking about race and your neighbor. This is our work to change our communities until, as Amos 5:24 says, “justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”

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