10 Jan Hearts Change When We Listen
by Lauren Neal, with Charlene Robertson
For years now, I have had a desire to work to create change in culture and ethnicity within the church. Most people might have the impression that we live in a very white area, but there are a lot of people here who are not white, and they would like to be welcomed in—welcomed into our doors, into leadership, into the lives of others through authentic community.
At this point you might be thinking, “Who?! No one is being left out.” I used to think that way too, until just a bit ago. In 2015, when I watched the Race Reconciliation panel during the IF: Gathering conference (a Women’s conference we webcast/host here at Northshore), it became apparent to me that I was not called to wait for someone else to say something—it was my time to say something. I needed to use the voice, platform, and influence God had given me to see to it that all were welcome. In January 2017, we began that journey through a pilot women’s group for the Race Reconciliation efforts here at Northshore. It has been one of the most transformative experiences I’ve ever participated in.
... it became apparent to me that I was not called to wait for someone else to say something—it was my time to say something.
One of the people who has participated in this pilot group is Charlene Robertson. Charlene is a white, Christian, and—I hope she doesn’t mind my saying—a older woman from our congregation. She showed excited interest in being a part of this group from the beginning, and she has astounded me in the ways she’s jumped right in.
After participating in the group, Charlene wrote a prayer of lament that deeply impacted me. Lament is a significant element of race reconciliation, because we can’t reconcile with each other when we don’t acknowledge hurts that have been committed. After we have seen the hurts we have contributed to, we know there is true heart change when sadness, or lament, occurs.
We spent one of our group sessions processing through this idea, and out of our time together, Charlene wrote the prayer below which I share with her permission. I find it so powerful when someone who has followed Jesus for a long time finds a deeper level of heart change and brokenness. Charlene demonstrated her powerful heart change to our group, and it brought us all to tears:
It seemed peaceful, hopeful
almost idyllic –
the era of my childhood.
But underneath the surface
all was not well –
justice for all was a mockery –
all meant white, all meant middle-
Woe to us for choosing to not look.
Woe to me for choosing to not care.
The injuries piled up
people were pushed aside.
But not my people
Oh, merciful God have mercy,
forgive our complacency.
Hear our wail
Cover our sins.
Light of the world,
light the path forward.
More Race Reconciliation groups will be launched this spring out of the IF: Gathering 2018 women’s conference. If this is something you’d want to be a part of, please email Lauren. If you’re interested in looking at the curriculum we use, follow this link to Be the Bridge, to find out more. https://beabridgebuilder.com/
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