“With depth comes freedom.”
I am getting over a sore shoulder. I began to carry tension in both shoulders in January and within a day or two the old bursitis showed up. My shoulder can do some things, but it has trouble with certain movements and some transitions.
When my shoulders complain … I think of my connection with old racial attitudes. My racial attitudes are like an old bursitis. I think I am fine when my movements are limited. But when I stretch into greater effort or more significant work I can discover old inflammation, binding and pain.
And perhaps this isn’t such a bad analogy for a historic UCC church in New England. We think of ourselves as pretty much okay, reasonable about difference, embracing an inclusive faith and a loving God. Others have their racial issues … but we are mostly okay.
But it may be that we have “racial bursitis” after all. It may begin to show up in a “do we have to spend so much time on this topic” feeling. Or it may be a kind of stilted welcome that we give those who enter worship from a very different background ethnically and racially. It could show up in our attitudes toward our own resources (and privileges). It most likely is present in our feeling that things are “not as bad as they were a year ago”.
Let’s take the analogy of bursitis a bit farther. Our goal as a church, like the goal of my physical therapists, is freedom of movement … in the case of a church, the freedom to serve others. To get there we may need do some deep tissue work. I can think of the massage therapists who really DID something for me. Their touch was deep, it was searching, it was caring, and it revealed painful pressure points. But when it was over I felt “unbound” … much much freer in my body.
This could be an analogy for the “white privilege” course that we are offering this fall. We can come together to heal and grow as a team, to listen to pain and to respond with care. (We’ll share more on this class in the coming weeks.)
I am reminded that a locked shoulder needs relaxation, conscious deep stretching and breathing. It can benefit from acupuncture. And its healing works best if the setting for care is genuinely loving. This gives us another analogy for our racial bursitis. It may be BEST worked on in a community that brings truth and love into one place, sees them at the heart of God, the heart of the kingdom of which Jesus spoke, the center of reality.
So listening to pain, responding to it and working on it together… this ultimately may give us the freedom to serve. After all, isn’t it true that we are only seeking the good — rediscovering a place of deeper service and greater flexibility in a wider frame?
Rev. Jonathan Carey Goodell, a member of the Racial Justice Working Group,