As I watched Ferguson, Missouri smoldering literally and emotionally like Watts in the sixties, I was compelled to stand up for me – myself and the other me. As a Black, Female, Lesbian, Christian, mother, many things about this incident make me feel sad, angry and disempowered. And I recognize that I can’t face the overwhelming grief and frustration, nor be an avid activist in isolation. So I turn to my community, colleagues, peers and family.
Part of my hope and commitment and even direction comes from my association with the UCC. We are a denomination that ministers to the World at the margins. God’s Extravagant Welcome is shared to all those “whoever and wherever” folks on life’s journey.
Still for some of us it’s complicated. The church is the place where many of us were nurtured and the place that we can most identify with after facing a world where we fight to be accepted by others. And yet, some of us find that we are not welcomed fully, when we have to check one of ourselves at the door. We have to some part of ourselves tucked away in a dark and lonely closet.
I thought about a scripture that described a similar experience that Jesus had. I John 11, the story is recounted that Jesus was in his own community, ready to share his gifts with them. Capable of bring healing and miracles. But they decided that he wasn’t “their kind.” They labeled him and said “nothing good” could come from his origins.
Now I can imagine that when word got around later that Jesus was becoming somebody. The community took some credit for his gifts, while they downplayed all the things they disdained about him.
But like Jesus, those who are marginalized can be assured that God created them and called them to a purpose. And like Jesus many African-American people, women and same gender-loving people impact the church and the world in great ways.
Those who face, survive and overcome oppression have a unique message to deliver, a unique song to sing, a unique act of love to offer the world. This message is heralded from the crossroads—the intersection of who they are.
Like the snowflake, no two of us are alike. Yet, as Dr. King reminded us, “We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied into a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly”.
Each and every one of us has something unique and individual to contribute to our world. God has positioned those who have been marginalized and who still find a way to thrive to use their voice and visions and victories to impact the greater good. The ripple effect of one good deed, or one life significantly changed can carry on infinitely, in a multitude of ways. Many of us have a story to tell that can liberate somebody. A testimony that can help somebody. A victory over difficulties that can heal somebody.
As the ONA consultant for the conference, I am committed to stand with all who are being called to point the way to the still speaking God who says. “I love you because of who are—not in spite of who you are. I created you just as you are!” Let’s gather together in solidarity. God gives us our position so that we may use it for righteous and just causes, for the spread of the Gospel. God lays upon us special work by the special characteristics of the times. ‘Such a time as this!’ Was there ever such a time? There is persecution from unjust systems. There are wars fueled by Zionism. Children left unprotected at the borders because of arrogant nationalism. African girls being snatched from their schools and held hostage by violent men. Police beating and murdering people for petty crimes and even mistaken identity.
We have work to do! If we neglect the voice of God’s providence, harm comes to us. The fact is that selfishness is the ruin of any people. Don’t you want to be as Dr. King also said, “on the right side of history”?
Show up for yourself not only at the margins, but at the intersections of your identity. Meet me at the crossroads.