Friday, October 17, 2014

In the midst of trauma -- choosing a time of listening.

In our Basic Discipleship course, I share the Rev. Gordon Cosby's framework of discipleship of Jesus as an inward journey and an outward journey. It is the inward journey of prayer and worship, the outward journey of serving and giving, with study -- from written texts, conversations and the text of our lives -- being the hinge.

Both the inward journey and outward journey are critical. The inward journey by itself becomes self-indulgent. The outward journey by itself becomes rootless activism. Following Jesus is a balance of reflection and action. We need both. This is why for the past five years on Martin Luther King's birthday, we have held a daylong reading of his sermons, speeches and writings. So that in the midst of a day of community service and action Christ Church Cathedral can be a place of quiet reflection on this great man's words -- not just the sound bytes but the full, deep, rich texts.

Over the past couple days, I have realized that my life is not in this balance, that it is affecting negatively my ability to follow Jesus and be a leader at Christ Church Cathedral and in St. Louis ... and also that my life affords me the privilege to choose differently not just for my own good but hopefully for the good of all.

Starting today, I will be embarking on a personal "time of listening" ... not as an escape from what is happening in Ferguson, Shaw and all around us but to dive more deeply into it, into our life together as a Cathedral community and to how this is affecting us as a St. Louis region.

This means for two-plus weeks, I will be laying some things down and taking some things up.

I will not be participating in any actions, not going to any planning or strategizing meetings, not doing any programs and not speaking to the press or blogging, emailing or FB posting about any of this (in fact, I am going to take a social media fast).

Instead, from the home base we share at Christ Church Cathedral, I will be:

*Engaging in daily intentional prayer and study.

*Inviting and seeking out one-on-one and one-on-two conversations to listen deeply (and pray with if people are open) to people who are experiencing what has happened in our region and our Cathedral from different sides and in different ways. I have already reached out to Cathedral parishioners, police officers and spouses, youth demonstrators and others asking for their time.

*Working with Amy and our Chapter leadership to listen deeply to the members and health of our Cathedral community and who & how God is calling us to be. And also to listen to what this and other things going on in our common life is revealing about us ... particularly as we engage in a strategic planning process at such a watershed moment in our region's history.

*Continuing to gather our Cathedral community in Eucharistic worship and preside at the other tables of our common life so we can lay our lives on the table with Christ.

This is not me "checking out" but instead "checking more deeply in." This means if you have something to say to me, something you think I need to hear, please come to me and know I want to listen.

From Sunday evening, November 2 through Wednesday, November 5, I will be meeting with my colleague group in northern California. For more than a decade, this group has been essential to keeping me on the winding path of Christ and I will be using them to help me pray through and process what I have heard.

On Saturday, November 8, our Chapter will meet for a workday to put together the draft of our strategic plan and I will be able to add what I have heard to that process.

While I will be preaching several times during this time of listening, I will not be writing because, following Sister Ruth's advice during my trip to Israel/Palestine to "go deep and quiet." I want to sit with the many things I will be hearing -- some of which will be contradictory -- and not rush to a resolution or completed thought.

I am choosing this path of a time of intentional and deep listening with the support of our Chapter in realization that we are in a time of trauma that has many levels:

*There are people in the African-American community who have been undergoing sustained trauma for years and decades, and the anger and pain from that trauma is understandably and rightly bursting out all over.

*There are city officials, police officers and their families and others who are having the pain and anger directed at them -- that is trauma as well.

*There are clergy and others like me who are trying both to stand with the voices of those with long-term trauma but also stand in the breach and be forces of reconciliation. That is traumatic.

*There are residents of Ferguson and Shaw who have not gotten a good night sleep in weeks or months. That is traumatic.

But that's not all.

As Christ Church Cathedral, we are changing. We are moving from being a pastoral-sized congregation with a big building and a bishop's chair into truly being a Cathedral. I and many others find that exciting and absolutely in line with Jesus' call in the Great Commandment and the Great Commission. I love that we are becoming more and more a place that St. Louis looks to as sacred public space to gather for the common good. I love that we have a bustling charter elementary school in our building. I love that the conversations at Chapter around our strategic plan are outward looking and talk about us being a "catalyst in the community" as well as a place where we gather the community to "celebrate the sacraments faithfully."

But like all change, this change involves loss. New people are coming and some longtime members have left. We are wrestling with moving from a model where "pastoral care" means the clergy are calling to how we can care deeply for one another. And now all this is happening while helicopters circle overhead, and we see our beloved city become the identified patient for American systemic racism on CNN.

All of this is trauma. And one thing we know about trauma is that we each feel our own trauma deeply -- regardless of whether it is greater or less than someone else's. And that trauma effects our actions. We also know that healing involves facing our trauma and turning it from something that binds us in chains to a resource for empathy and reaching out in love to one another.

My best teachers in this are the amazing women of Magdalene -- women who know more deeply than I ever will what trauma is. They have taught me that this transformation from victim of trauma to outward-reaching, empathetic, loving survivor of trauma is possible. That there is healing from trauma, but it is not quick healing.

The tagline of Magdalene is "Love Heals." And Jesus shows us what love looks like and that is the Word becoming flesh and dwelling with -- not just for a few seconds but for as long as it takes. Healing of trauma begins with sitting with one another and listening deeply. It's why it will have taken us more than three years when we open Magdalene St. Louis next spring and it will be another two years until the first women graduate. It's why relapse is an expected part of recovery. This is long, hard work -- and if we are to do it we need to listen deeply to each other and, when possible, move out of reaction into reflection.

We cannot rush to peace right now -- either in our Cathedral or in St. Louis or in America. This is going to take time. And while the landscape is changing on an almost hourly basis and there are those who have no choice to react to that change, I'm realizing our deep need of others to take up this ministry of reflection and listening.

I mentioned before that my life affords me the privilege of doing this. I choose those words carefully. I have many sisters and brothers who do not have that choice -- and I want to make sure you all know that, and that me making this choice is not judging you or abandoning you but quite the opposite ... seeking to discern through deep listening how I and Christ Church Cathedral can stand among you as a force for love, justice and reconciliation. I am deeply grateful for those who will continue to make themselves available faithfully to react to the changing landscape while I engage in this different form of the work.

I ask not only your prayers in this time, I ask your participation. Come talk to me. Talk with each other. Pray with me. Pray with each other. Join in reaching out to those with whom you might be disagreeing right now. Let me, let each other know what is on your heart -- not just about what is happening in our city but in your life.

Together we'll search for Jesus ... and I know together we will find Jesus.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Today in Ferguson -- Why I March

1. Nonviolence is a way of life for courageous people.
It is active nonviolent resistance to evil.
It is aggressive spiritually, mentally and emotionally.

2. Nonviolence seeks to win friendship and understanding.
The end result of nonviolence is redemption and reconciliation.
The purpose of nonviolence is the creation of the Beloved Community.

3. Nonviolence seeks to defeat injustice not people.
Nonviolence recognizes that evildoers are also victims and are not evil people.
The nonviolent resister seeks to defeat evil not people.

4. Nonviolence holds that suffering can educate and transform.
Nonviolence accepts suffering without retaliation.
Unearned suffering is redemptive and has tremendous educational and transforming possibilities.

5. Nonviolence chooses love instead of hate.
Nonviolence resists violence of the spirit as well as the body.
Nonviolent love is spontaneous, unmotivated, unselfish and creative.

6. Nonviolence believes that the universe is on the side of justice.
The nonviolent resister has deep faith that justice will eventually win.
Nonviolence believes that God is a God of justice.

-The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King's Six Principles Nonviolence described in his first book, Stride Toward Freedom.

This morning, I will join with clergy and people of faith from St. Louis and around the country in a nonviolent march to the Ferguson Police Department and protest there.

The principles of nonviolent resistance that Dr. King laid out are the philosophical foundation of my actions. The theological foundation is God's love for all humanity, the call of Jesus Christ actively to love any whom I might be tempted to call enemies, and St. Paul's charge to us to be ambassadors of Christ given the ministry of reconciliation.

King believed, as do I, that the goal of nonviolent resistance was to bring about The Beloved Community -- what Helen Ludbrook referred to in her sermon on Sunday as the realm of God. It is not a state of being without conflict but where conflict is used creatively as a tool for learning and resolved nonviolently. Where our fundamental belief that all people are created in God's image and worthy of equal dignity and share in the wealth of the earth is lived out in all aspects of our life.

I march today as a small part of trying to bring about that Beloved Community.

I march today specifically at the Ferguson Police Department because I wish to highlight the injustices of the systems of policing not only in Ferguson and St. Louis but in this nation. Systems which target people of color and treat them with less dignity and respect than people who look like me. Systems where the power differential is so skewed that a culture of verbal and physical abuse, particularly of young people of color, is allowed to exist and even thrive.

I march today in solidarity with the young people committed to nonviolent protest who have been on the streets for the more than 60 days since Michael Brown was killed. I march in solidarity with them in awe of their courage, their strength, their refusal to go away until their voices are heard and changes are made.

I march today in solidarity with clergy and people of faith who share these convictions. Some of them are choosing to risk arrest. I do not believe that is the path I am called down at this time. But I stand with them in solidarity and admiration.

I march today FOR the women and men of the Ferguson Police Department, the St. Louis County and City Police and all the police, judicial and governmental structures of our region. The Beloved Community includes them. The Beloved Community needs them. I march in deep, prayerful hope that the passionate conviction we have for justice will engage us all as partners in bringing the Beloved Community about.

I march today as the Dean of Christ Church Cathedral, knowing that even though that title means far less than it did in days past (and in many ways that is good), that it still means something for the leader of this storied institution to stand as previous deans from Montgomery Schuyler through Michael Allen have, stand with the voices of the oppressed and affirming that in Christ, if one suffers, we all suffer.

Finally, and most important, I march today as a father. This is about our daughters and sons who are growing up black and brown in America. It is about their safety and even their very survival. I also march as a father because my son has chosen to march with me. He has seen what is happening in our streets. He has heard the voices and stories of those who have been abused and oppressed and his heart has gone out to them. He has shown his commitment by engaging in the nonviolent resistance training and expressed his deep desire to be a part of this action today. So mostly this day, I will be there as his father, proud to stand with him, and full of great hope that he and his generation will usher us more fully into that Beloved Community.

I beg your prayers. I welcome conversation. I urge you to join in bringing the Beloved Community to life.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Out of a night of tragedy, three glimmers of hope in Shaw

Last night was a night of many negative and terrible things. Most tragic, a young black man, VonDerrit Myers Jr., was shot and killed by an off-duty St. Louis City police officer. This is the fifth officer-related shooting this year, all of the victims black men under the age of 31. 

Photo courtesy of Lawrence Bryant, St. Louis American
We are at a dangerous time as a region, and that is frightening. But danger also holds our attention. We are a community ... and in many ways a nation ... at attention right now, and that is good. There will not be change unless we hold attention and keep us all in that place of uncomfortability. We cannot rush to peace.

That said, as a region, we need a container in which we can do this work. A container that will hold and allow enough uncomfortability and even threat of danger to hold our attention and to effect conversion.

As I stood on Shaw Blvd. last night -- called there to be a presence of prayer and peace -- and watched protesters smashing police car windows, and as two sets of gunshots went off, I thought to myself: "This is beyond peacekeeping. There is no way this ends well."

I was wrong. I am so grateful that I was wrong. As tragically as the evening began -- with the death of a young man and an officer forever changed as anyone is when we take another life -- the night into this morning did not end in tragedy. And so as all the things that were wrong about last night are being necessarily chronicled, I want to stop and ask why things didn't end in tragedy. And when I do, even on this rainy day where we are so aware of loss, I believe there is hope.

So what happened? Three things.

First, the young leaders of Millennial Activists United, the women and men who have been protesting on S. Florissant,  stepped up. They organized. They kept the crowd in that place of unpeaceful and nonviolent action that is so difficult and so necessary. They did not back down and they helped the crowd authentically express their rage and pain without violence.

Second, the police showed restraint toward the protesters. They gave space. They did not make mass arrests or brutalize the protesters. They acted in ways to contain but not escalate.

Third, the clergy found our lanes to drive in. We recognized that first, last and always what we bring is our charge to gather the community in prayer. We prayed with the boy's parents. After the crime scene was opened up, we gathered in prayer around where he lay and reclaimed the ground. Then we split into two groups with some going with the protesters and supporting the MAU leaders and others of us (myself included) going to the morgue to be with the father as he identified the body and provide prayer and pastoral support there.

Each group -- the protesters, the police and the clergy -- had a sense of what there purpose was and how to do it well. And as awful as last night was, and although there were certainly missteps in each of those groups, that is eventually what happened.

And that gives me hope.

We are living in a place of negative trust -- where there is not only a lack of trust of one another but active belief that the other is lying whenever they speak, active distrust of the validity of the experience of the other.

This negative trust developed over decades and it will take a long time to build a positive trust that very well may never have existed before. It will take a willingness of all sides to meet and have honest expressions of difficult experiences, facts and emotions. IT will take a commitment to a process of extended Truth as a road to eventual Reconciliation, a commitment to holding ourselves and each other in a position of profound, nonviolent uncomfortability.

A child is dead. A man must have his taking of a life of a child on his soul for the rest of his life. Regardless of the facts of the case, this is a tragedy. But on this gray, rainy day, there is still hope. We as a St. Louis region have a gargantuan task ahead of us -- but with God's help, working together and being guided by each of our better angels, I believe we will be equal to it. 

Friday, October 3, 2014

Nonviolent Resistance Training at CCC - What, When and Why

Our vision for Christ Church Cathedral is that we be "a place where people, all people, can gather to seek God and to be present to each other while being a catalyst for change and growth within the wider community." Chapter has adopted this vision as part of our strategic planning process. It is the "heavenly Jerusalem" we believe we will become as we live into the mission we have discerned to "seek a deeper relationship with God and each other in Jesus Christ through:
*Celebrating the sacraments faithfully.
*Proclaiming the Gospel boldly
*Embracing diversity joyfully
*Serving all passionately
as a Cathedral."

From 5-7 pm on Saturday, Oct. 11, Christ Church Cathedral will be hosting a training session in nonviolent resistance as a part of the Ferguson October National Mobilization Weekend. I am writing to share what this training will be (and to invite your participation), who will be conducting it, why we have agreed to host and the process used in making that decision.

The training will be facilitated by members of the Fellowship of Reconciliation ( FOR is a longstanding and respected interfaith organization that has been working for peace, justice and nonviolence for nearly 100 years. Historically, it's supporters have included such people as Albert Einstein, Corretta Scott King and Thich Nhat Hanh. You can read about FOR's history here - FOR's Director of National Organizing is Ethan Vesely-Flad, an Episcopalian. I am proud to be a member of the Fellowship of Reconciliation.

Specifically, the training will be led by the Rev. Osagyefo Uhuru Sekou, a graduate of Soldan High School and Baptist pastor. I have met Rev. Sekou on several occasions, and he was with me on Monday evening as we served as peacekeepers with the young protesters in Ferguson.

I have been a student of nonviolence since my youth, and in particular have read and prayed deeply with the writings of Mohandas Gandhi and, to a lesser extent, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I believe our call to follow Jesus is consonant with the principles of nonviolent resistance when faced with situations of extreme injustice.

This was enough for me to consider FOR's invitation to host the training. I then took it to the Executive Committee of Chapter for their consideration. We had first an email conversation and then a conversation at our meeting Thursday evening. We agreed that gathering people together to be trained in nonviolence was a good thing no matter what the circumstances ... and particularly at this time where we have been experienced violence in our city recently and the potential for greater violence looms, the more people we can engage in nonviolence the better. We also agreed that this was a way to live into the vision of Christ Church Cathedral as a "catalyst for change and growth within the wider community."

I will be attending the training, and I hope you will consider attending it, too. I know there will be people there who will be attending it as preparation for direct nonviolent action ... potentially even that weekend. I also hope there will be plenty of people there who will see this as an opportunity for what is essentially a spiritual journey and way to engage powers with the heart of Christ's love.

FOR has offered to pay our security costs so that we are not out of pocket any expenses for this event.

If you have any questions about this event or any event we host at Christ Church Cathedral, please contact me and I will be happy to talk, listen, meet and pray with you. And I hope you will be a part of this gathering at Christ Church Cathedral.