Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Calling the Elders

The service was long, too long - but it was important.

Last Sunday, the clergy of Saint John's joined together with clergy from across the city at St. Peter's Catholic Church to participate in a Service of Healing as a part of the "Healing of the Races" weekend.

It was a profound, ecumenical moment that resonated with the very high church side of me.

At the pulpit?

The Rev'd Dr. James A. Forbes, Sr. Pastor Emeritus of The Riverside Church, New York.

Jim is one of the masters at the craft. I've been aware of and beholden to his work for about 20 years. At his best, he is unmatched.

He's just that good.

So, to be a part of a service in which he was preaching was a big deal, at least for me.

Was he at his best that night? No. Not even close.

From a pure homiletical perspective, it wasn't an "A" game night.

But even he admitted he didn't usually approach the task of preaching the way he was attempting to do it that night.

Nine days past the commemoration of MLK's assassination - the perpetual tension of community over race - the ambivalence of leadership to carve a new path for community to follow. It was a tall order for anyone. What does one say in such a moment?

So, he spoke - and what he did say was powerful, full of Spirit and it was prophetic.

"Racism is a sin because it is based on a lie."

"Racism diminshes both the oppressed and the oppressor."

Among all else he said, nothing was more important than this. In moments of greatest distress and unrest, in the tradition of the Church, "we call the elders of the Church" to anoint with oil, lay on hands, and pray for healing.

On this night, that's what I did.

I laid my hands upon the old and young, white and black, and prayed for healing from the disease of racism and healing for those victimized by it.

It is a moment of deep and abiding meaning for me to anoint my African American sisters and brothers, lay hands upon them, and, especially for those who are older, pray they be released and healed from racism's hold on their lives.

I left that service convinced that the individual parts of the body are never greater than the sum. What a powerful thing to be a part of a moment of claiming a new day, a new reality, a freeing from dis-ease.

Beyond all else, we announced that the Realm of God is about WE bound by grace through Jesus Christ, and we build that Realm right here, right now.

Thanks for the pics CD

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