Dear People of Grace,
May the Blessing and Peace of Christ be with all of you.
Another week of Covid restrictions and many are feeling isolated and depressed. It seems to be setting in with everyone: a little grumpy, on-edge, a little too sensitive, lonely, heightened despair. Remember that God is with us and that we “can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
Many things in our world strengthens us: nature, creativity, spiritual words, being challenged to look at things in different ways. These and many other things strengthen us as long as we remember that we are all on this great journey of life together.
This past week at the Monday Morning Bible Study we had a wonderful conversation about this week’s Gospel passage and how it relates to the current racial challenges in our nation. It challenged many of us about the systemic racism and white privilege we have lived with, often unknowing. I am sensing a time of new learning, new possibilities, new relationships and new journeys. I look forward to hearing about the new ministries and directions these discussions give birth to.
As you know I often share with you reflections from our previous bishop, +Porter Taylor. I would like to share a reflection that was sent out today:
Anti-Racism is about opening to a wider reality by letting go of our nearsightedness. “Once I was blind but now I see.” We grow up learning our culture’s way of mapping the world. Whom do we see as important and whom can we neglect? It may be surprising, but even Jesus had to learn to see. When he first encountered the Canaanite woman, he didn’t see her (Matthew 15:22-28). He dismisses her and implies she is a dog. But when she enters a conversation with him, it causes him to open his eyes and see her as a woman of great faith. He is freed from his nearsightedness. I think that everything that happens to Jesus happens to us. Therefore, anti-racism is not just a civic duty; it’s about discipleship.
We live in a culture that is not only infected with blindness, but it has systematized the blindness so that all white people grow up being infected. Remember the line from the Broadway play South Pacific (you might have to be close to my age)? “You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late. To hate all the people your parents hate.”
When we talk about dis-mantling racism, we are talking about white people learning to see. And it’s hard. It’s hard not just because white folks are conditioned on how to filter their sight; it’s hard because it means admitting that part of where white men and women are is because they are privileged in a system that awards whiteness. Dismantling racism is not just about seeing other people as having equal value—as Jesus came to see the Canaanite woman--it’s about recognizing the ways the system we live in perpetuates discrimination or blindness and then admitting that we who are as white persons means we have come to see that system as “normal” or even “right.” Then it’s about change.
There is Good News. Those of us who have been privileged by our skin color can be cured of our blindness and our prejudice. It’s hard work and requires honesty and a willingness to grow. As Christians, our terms for this cure are “repentance and conversion.” We who are white must do the work to free our minds from our old racist perspective, but this is more than head work. It’s heart work. It’s systems work. It’s surrender work. It’s repentance work. And it’s hard—but it’s about salvation. St. Augustine wrote, “You are the veil that separates you from the Paradise you seek.” Anti-Racism is about changing systems. It’s about making the world right for everyone. But before those of us who are white start working on the world, we must work on ourselves. We must lift our interior veil and learn to see. In his early twenties, Thomas Merton asked his friend Robert Lax how one becomes a saint, and Lax answered “By Wanting to.” Yes, to learn to see is hard work, but it’s the work that has been given to white folks and it begins with their waning to do it for their sake and the world’s sake and Christ’s sake. The first step is learning to see.
God of all beings and all races, cleanse our sight, widen our vision, help us see all of our fellow human beings as your children, and then give us the strength to change systems that perpetuate blindness.
I thank Porter for his words, insight, and his willingness to speak the hard truths we need to hear. May these times of discomfort with our past and the current goings on be that which enables us to be more like Jesus and truly see ALL those around us who are our brothers and sisters.
I want to remind everyone that the work of God, God's People and the Church continues. Although our building may be closed, our work is never complete. Grace continues to thrive as a community of the faithful, unhindered by our inability to gather together because The People of God @ Grace know what the real mission and ministry of the Church is. Let us take heart and be of good courage, armed with the heavenly grace that reminds us who we are, whose we are and what it is we are called to do and be in this world. We are the Church. And we are never closed!
May God grant you rest and peace as you weather this time.
Remember to join us on Sunday mornings at 10:30, Wednesday’s at 12:15 on YouTube, and every evening (except Sunday) at 8PM on Grace’s Facebook page for Compline.
Be well, stay safe, follow the guidelines, care for your neighbor, care for yourself and LOVE!
Wishing you hope, joy and the Light of Christ's abundant love,
Let us pray.
Be present, O merciful God, and protect us through the living of these days. Give us the courage and strength to know you are present and beside us; give us the grace to forgive ourselves and others; give us the strength to support each other, those in need, and continually offer our thanksgivings for those who put themselves at risk in our medical professions; give us the wisdom to know what to do, what to say, and when; and in your mercy, O Christ, guide us so that we who are wearied by the changes and chances of this life may rest in your eternal changelessness, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Fr. Gary Butterworth
Grace Episcopal Church | 871 Merrimon Ave., Asheville, NC 28804
graceavl.com | 828-254-1086
Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. - 4 p.m.