The Gift of Presence
For nearly two weeks, those of us in the Saint Paul Area Synod have been blessed by the presence of ou[...]
In January 2019, a cohort of young adults from our synod traveled to Atlanta for Martin Luther King Jr weekend. There, they dove deep into matters of race, privilege, and justice. They met with faith and community leaders, worshiped at Ebenezer Baptist Church, and toured different museums and exhibits. This trip was made possible through the synod's Young Adult Initiative. In this Lenten blog series, members of the cohort share reflections on what they experienced and learned during the trip, and what questions they continue to grapple with.
I was fascinated by the range of folks who decided to join our group travelling to Atlanta. There were a few seminary students like me, an ordained pastor and her husband, two local community members, a church youth minister, and two Saint Paul Area Synod staff members. However, as we artfully dissected through the trip, we are much more than the roles we occupy at a moment in time. There are many pieces that make a person who they are. This can include race, gender, sexuality, ability, socioeconomic level, but is also so much more. It takes courage to be in relationship and discover what makes someone unique, but this is exactly what our loving, relational God calls us to do. We are called to see the complex, beloved humanness in one another.
The group engaged in reading and film discussions that highlighted this search for humanness. I thought critically about my own experiences with race but I also had the privilege of processing with others in the group. We recognized that no matter where in the United States (or even the world) you may find yourself — in 1980s New York like in the film Do the Right Thing, in the state prison in Louisiana highlighted in 13th, in Atlanta and the South in the 1960s as we saw in Selma, or in the Twin Cities, profiled in articles we read from A Good Time for Truth — systemic, racial injustice prevents us from living God's calling. Racism and injustice prevent us from connecting with others. We miss out on that most beloved and human level of connection.
Reading, watching, and reflecting with this diverse group has helped me develop a more critical lens through which I look at media. Soon after the trip, I watched this year’s Academy Awards best picture nominees BlacKkKlansman and Black Panther. I watched them with a new appreciation for how these films brought racial justice and empowerment into the mainstream in 2018. I hope and pray that more incredible, complex, empowering stories like these continue to make us all more human to each other.
Luther Seminary, St. Paul