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Message from Rev. Kevin

Posted by St. Alban's Episcopal Church on October 20, 2021 at 5:50 PM

I have been reading the book, How the Word is Passed, in preparation for our Adult Formation offering this coming Sunday. It is a challenging read, in the best sense of the term. It challenges to reader to view aspects of our nation’s history through the lens of slavery and through the experiences of those who were enslaved. And it challenges us to recognize and acknowledge how instrumental slavery was to the origins and development of our nation.


Reading the book, along with others like it, has led me to think about the nature of repentance and how it applies in the case of our national reckoning with slavery and racism. Some have argued that the Christian notion of repentance is not of current relevance when talking about slavery: “How can we be blamed for something that happened well before our time? I shouldn’t feel obligated to repent for something that I had nothing to do with, since I wasn’t even alive when it happened.”


This mindset sees repentance as being primarily transactional and limited in time and space to specific interactions between certain individuals (i.e. “I can only repent of those things that I have actually done or said) The biblical notion of repentance is about much more than apologizing and making amends for specific things one has said or done in certain relationships. The Greek word for repentance is “metanoia”, which suggests the utter changing of one’s mind/orientation. Rather than being transactional and limited to specific interactions between certain individuals, the biblical notion of repentance involves a complete re-orientation of one’s perspective on reality. The way one sees the world is transformed, such that old ways of being and interacting with others are left behind.


It seems to me that this biblical notion of repentance absolutely applies when we are talking about slavery. It’s not that we are being asked to accept guilt and apologize for things that happened before our time, things we had no direct impact on. Rather, it’s that we are being asked to have our perspective re-oriented by a deeper understanding of the evils of slavery and their far-reaching impacts on our nation’s history, right up to the present. We are being asked to acknowledge that many of us have been the indirect beneficiaries of an institution that enslaved and dehumanized fellow human beings because of the color of their skin.


Reading and discussing How the Word is Passed is one way in which we can open ourselves to that transformational re-orientation that is at heart of Christian repentance. I hope that you will take the time to read it and join us for conversation about it this Sunday. Even if you’re not able to read the book by then, you are still invited and encouraged to join us for this important conversation led by members of the St. Alban’s Anti-Racism Team (StAART).


Yours in Christ,

Kevin

 

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