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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.


Matt: 16:24-25:  Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.
If you are anything like me, then you are reaching that point where you a ready for all of this Lent nonsense to be over so you can start celebrating the resurrection! On top of the Lenten devotional I have been doing with the church, I have one that I am doing every morning with my wife, plus my Lenten discipline of only eating local and/or organic food. In the grand scheme of things they are small sacrifices of time, money, and effort, but they add up and I’m ready to ease up a bit. Lent is hard.
On top of the external things I am doing, there is the internal work. During this season, the scriptures we reflect upon deal largely with self sacrifice and the discipline required to be a follower of Christ. Like the text above, we have constant reminders that the way of Jesus is the way of the cross, the way of dying to self and living for God and others. Lent drops us into the mindset of what a true life of life is all about. Discipleship is hard. 
Of course the way of faith is hard. If it were easy, everyone would do it! We’re reminded of our faults and shortcomings. Moreover, we’re reminded of our mortality and the fleeting nature of life. We’d rather not look at these things because they destroy our illusions of control and competence. And yet, it is in the midst of the hardships of Lent that we discover our true need for God, our need for grace, and our need for community. 
One of the awful byproducts of our culture is the sense that we need to “self sufficient”. We shouldn’t have needs. We should be able to pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps. We should be able to make our own way. The gospel tells us something different. We are dependent every moment on God and God’s grace. And we need a community of people around us who will hold us up and encourage us through the dark days. Yes, Lent is hard. Discipleship is hard. Both are much harder when we go at them alone. 
As our Lenten journey begins to draw to a close, how have you become more aware of your need for God? How have you become more aware of your need for community? You may see those things as weaknesses. Guess what? They are. And it’s our weakness that God’s strength is revealed as well as the strength of our community. Friends, this journey of ours is supposed to be hard, so that we might never lose sight of our need for God nor our need for each other. May we embrace the difficulty and seek comfort in the love of God and neighbor. 

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.