Deepening Community Conversations
One of the profound learnings I experienced over and over throughout my sabbatical was how much we are all inextricably intertwined oppressed-and-privileged. Finding part of my family lineage who were white (privileged) but poor (oppressed) and other ancestors who were financially secure (privileged) but Jewish (oppressed) was highlighted by simply not knowing where any of my relatives who remained in Germany stood during WWII’s Nazi regime nor during the Communist controlled period that followed. I have inherited all of that mixed-up-ness. We all have.
This realization has provoked me to personally find ways I might push myself beyond my social location (middle-aged, middle-class, white, cis, able-bodied, lesbian, Christian woman from a working-class background but with a masters degree) so I might better live and move in our extended community. That is: I want to be more comfortable around people who don’t look, live, or engage in the world like I do. Because the truth is—as much I want to be a good person who’s anti-racist and gender-inclusive and not prejudiced by economic circumstances or age or ability or education—I’m too often reactive, fearful, and I misstep in ways that are understandable but can be transformed. I imagine you have similar experiences.
In my sermon a couple weeks ago, I named that a foundation First Congregational is working to strengthen is relationships with Northwest Youth Services (NWYS) and the work they do in our community, including The Ground Floor. Few staff and clients of The Ground Floor are in the same social location as I am, and therefore we have different stories and expectations about our world. If I’m going to engage with them in any hopeful way, I need to find ways to be more comfortable around them. Yes, I’ve read lots of books (the reading list is too long to name) but reading alone often leaves me longing for the next step.
Yesterday I learned that a Healing Pages Book Club is starting with NWYS’ staff and community members. They’re beginning with Shawn A. Ginwright’s book The Four Pivots: Reimagining Justice, Reimagining Ourselves. Was Spirit listening in to my internal sabbatical ponderings and gave me this blatant opportunity? Probably. I don’t know. But I do know that now I must choose: do I take a chance and be vulnerable with others in open conversation about a topic I find intrinsic to my faith yet outside my comfort zone? Probably. I don’t know.
How about you? Where are you finding your faith push you outside your comfort these days? I pray you find community support and gentle accountability. And if you’d like to join me at the Healing Pages Book Club, I’ll get you in touch with the coordinator.