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 Many years ago, a friend and I were talking about how we identify people in conversation.  Steve said, “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said ‘So, I was with my friend Tim—he’s a black guy’…I’ve never said ‘So, I was with my friend Bob, he’s a white guy…’  Why is that?  Why do we feel the need to identify anyone who isn’t white?” 

That conversation has stuck with me over the years and to this day, I am conscious of when I offer that extra description and when I don’t.  My ruminations resonated with the words Debby Irving offers in the Introduction of Waking Up White.  She writes:

“For years I struggled silently to understand race and racism.  I had no way to make sense of debates in the media about whether the white guy was ‘begin a racist’ or the black guy was ‘playing the race card.’  I wanted close friends of color but kept ending up with white people as my closet friends.  When I was with a person of color, I felt an inexplicable tension and a fear that I might say or do something offensive or embarrassing.  When white people made blatant racist jokes or remarks, I felt upset but had no idea what to do or say.  I didn’t understand why, if laws supporting slavery, segregation, and discrimination had been abolished, lifestyles still looked so different across color lines.  Most confusing were unwanted racist thoughts that made me feel like a jerk.  I felt too embarrassed to admit any of this, which prevented me from going in search of answers.  It turns out, stumbling block number 1 was that I didn’t think I had a race, so I never thought to look within myself for answers.”

CA-CHING!  It’s that last sentence that got me.  As one in the majority race, I tended to think of race as something everyone else had—Asian, African American, Indian, Latino—you get the idea.  “White” or “Anglo” really wasn’t “race.”  

Now, I am aware some of you may be beyond this thinking—and I am glad for that!  You can help those of us who need to catch up.  I am looking forward to reading Waking Up White.  For me, it is going to be challenging and eye opening.   A number of you have already expressed interest in this and here’s my suggestion of how we’ll gather around it.  Add Waking Up White to your summer reading list.  Let me know if you need help buying the book and let me know you’re reading it.  In September, we’ll begin conversation groups around our reading.

Irving’s book is a compliment to the Belhar Confession, the most recent Confession in our Book of Confession.  The mental image that keeps running through my mind is from Sunday—Elizabeth Bull holding up the printed copy as she’s offering witness to what our future ministry should be.  Racial reconciliation, inclusion and equality, speaking truth to power—it’s all there.  How does this new confession frame and guide our conversation about future ministry?  Should it frame and guide our conversation?  Intentionally digging into the confession is the only way to find out!  

This study will also begin in September.  A copy of the confession can be found here.  Add this to your summer reading list as well.  And let me know if you’re reading this too.

So, what’s the discernment about here?  For me, it has to do with that edgy, uncomfortable feeling—I’m being invited to consider something new, to change my outlook or behavior.  From my perspective so much of what is happening in our country and in the church has to do with our inability, unwillingness to address the issue of race.  I, for one, am tired of feeling inadequate and apprehensive about participating in that conversation and working to bring about change.  A first step for me is to educate myself and work to understand my own thoughts and reactions.  I invite you to join me.

Blessings,
Sharon

I'm still reeling a bit from the news of last Sunday. My heart goes out to the people Sutherland Springs, Texas. I am always deeply affected by mass shootings. They seem to be happening with increasing regularity. This one hits home even harder, not just because it was in a church, but because the pastor's daughter was one of the victims. It breaks my heart putting myself in that pastor's shoes, wondering if my calling but my children's lives in danger. It's almost more than I can handle.

This most recent shooting adds more fuel to the ever raging gun debate, a debate that seems to generate more heat than light. No one with any real power seems willing to offer up any more than the well worn "thoughts and prayers" that just seem to ring hollow. It's frustrating because at time it feels so hopeless.

There is another debate, though, one that gets far less attention but one in which we do have power. Because of this shooting, a conversation has been revived about whether or not there should be security (i.e. guns) present in the church buildings. This is our domain and here we do have influence. And now I'll switch from "we" to "I" language. I will never serve a church that allows guns in for security. That is a non-negotiable for me.

A mentor of mine once described the church as an embassy of heaven. When you are in an embassy, though you are physically in one country, you are legally in the land represented by the building and subject to its laws. Now however you define "heaven", a literal place we go to when we pass or an expression of the kingdom of God, we understand it being governed by a different set of rules as those we see in the world around us. We are governed by a rule of love of neighbor, not fear of them. Yes... that may mean making us vulnerable in some ways, but vulnerability is a part of love. In some ways, the search for safety has been the American church's greatest sin. Churches left the cities when demographics changed because of "safety", leaving behind the very vulnerable people we are called to serve.

I imagine that I am preaching to the choir here. If I'm not, I'd love to hear your thoughts, but I feel strongly that the church has to be a place that models something different to the rest of the world. "Welcome" is one of the values we profess and few things are less welcoming to me than guns. As intractable as the positions in this debate sometimes seem, we can make a positive statement that our security is found in God alone.

APAH Breaks Ground on Gilliam Place

73 New Affordable Homes Advance a Faith-Filled Vision Arlington, VA (July 28, 2017) – Yesterday, the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing (APAH) broke ground on its newest project, Gilliam Place, which will be located at 3507 Columbia Pike in Arlington. Gilliam Place emanated from Arlington Presbyterian Church’s (APC) vision to put their faith into action and property into mission service. Gilliam Place will provide 173 new committed affordable homes for lower income individuals and families. Nearly 9,000 square feet of civic/retail space will enliven the neighborhood and expand opportunity for the Columbia Pike community with a mix of non-profit tenants. Read More at APAH

Glebe Bannera

“I am about to do a new thing: now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?” – Isaiah 43:19

We are moving forward with our Vision.  This page will keep you up-to-date on the latest happenings around living into our Vision at Arlington Presbyterian Church.  To follow our journey or to join us, click on a link below.  The most recent events are at or near the top.