The Border Between Upset and Committed

If you’re not in denial about race in America, you’re upset by what’s going on. But are you committed to change?

Tuesday morning, I met with Rev. Lawrence Tanner Richardson, a UCC colleague who grew up in the Rondo neighborhood in St. Paul where my son and I have an apartment right now.

We were meeting partly because we’re colleagues, but I had reached out to Lawrence to try to develop relationships with African-American pastors in the area, and with those who are wanting to work with a white pastor and congregation on racial truth and reconciliation.

I have a congregation who’s upset.

Lawrence’s journey would be unusual for a pastor 25 or even 10 years ago (see http://www.ltrichardson.com/), but it now makes him uniquely well-suited to work the boundaries of intersectionality.

As we talked over coffee at a wonderful, local coffeehouse called Gingko near the Hamline U. campus, our common ground was as pastors first. About the range of people and experiences in every congregation.

We agreed that the churches where we serve have a spectrum of people, from those upset about the persistent racism in the U.S., to those fully committed to systemic change and the transformative work of truth-telling and -hearing necessary for real reconciliation to happen.

We must work the borders between Upset and Committed in shepherding our faith communities through the rough passage required for real change to happen.

We need to be both gentle and fierce. Patient and persistent. Claiming the moral high ground on race is only part of the battle; one needs to stay engaged with, and to some extent, in the middle of the herd with one’s people.

We agree that we must focus on the long game, because progress is incremental and happens mostly in fits and starts—and develop a range of different entry-points for where different people are on that spectrum (see my post from 11/23/17).

And in the course of my conversation with Lawrence, I became even more conscious of my role as an ally because I have the privilege to do this work: I’m white, straight, cisgender, and male—and I’m earning the trust of my congregation, which God can use to transform many more people in each person’s social circles and spheres of influence.

My meeting with Lawrence is an exciting part of this first year in this pastorate, a start in building significant relationships, which are the infrastructure God uses to change lives, and change LIFE.


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