Lenten Devotion Day 5

It was humbling to read today’s devotion from Good Courage. The writer described with evocative detail her experience as one of 500 clergy who gathered outside the gates of a detention center in Texas to protest the treatment of people of colour were held there, and who were separated from their minor children. She went on to ask her readers to consider their positions of privilege, and their lived out commitment to those whose suffering is caused by laws and policies and market structures that preserve that privilege.

I remember being at a clergy conference in Nashville, held at the national headquarters of the United Methodist Church. I noticed every morning, as I walked from my hotel to the church offices, that the people in service trades working in the hotel and restaturant district where I stayed, were almost all black and Latinx. Most of the guests (including me!), and the management types I saw were white.

All the clergy attending the conference were white. The topics at the conference were not justice oriented. The themes were all about spirituality and church renewal.

For me, the highlight of the week was a visit to a new “house church” intentional community established in a “working class” (read mixed race and poor) neighbourhood near Vanderbilt University. The folks who chose to live there, rented a home owned by a local, mostly white and middle class congregation, and were making good efforts to connect with their neighbours.

After the field trip to the house church, we returned to the national headquarters for a Q and A. The first questions asked by one of the white pastors was “Is the investment in this neighbourhood paying off? Is the sponsoring congregation gaining new members and contributors?”

It was an understandable concern. It was also a reminder of tensions experienced in the institutional church, when we are faced with the challenge of living out the Gospel that expresses a preferential option for the poor and marginalized.

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