By Bishop L. Jonathan Holston
“He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”—Micah 6:8 (NRSV)
As the summer wanes, we are quickly approaching the college football season. For many, this seasonal pastime is a priority.
On Saturday mornings, we awaken to prepare for the ritual of the tailgate. We load our vehicle of choice with the essentials—chairs, coolers, drinks, food, grill, games, team flags, tents—and off we go. We are in the best of moods.
Upon arrival at our stadium destination, we park in a space the size of a matchbox without complaint. We unload the essentials and share with others. We don’t inquire about the cleanliness of the grill or whether the tailgate chef has a culinary degree. A little fire is cleansing, and undercooked food is forgiven. We sit on cement pews and weather the extreme heat or cold with tenacity. If the game is tied after four hard-fought quarters of play, we don’t look at our watches and leave for the nearest restaurant to arrive before others. We stay in our seats and wait for more football!
Many who have experienced the Saturday tailgate-football ritual indicate that it is one of the most time honored and revered American traditions. It is often seen as an “active and coordinated effort in community-building.”
It was Monday, Feb. 26, 1979, that a solar eclipse would pass over North America. I was a college student and watched the event on television. During the television broadcast, the late Walter Cronkite announced that the next solar eclipse to cross the continent would be in 2017. Well, on Aug. 21, 2017, 38 years later, we had another opportunity of a lifetime to view a solar eclipse. For many of us, the solar eclipse was a priority. On that Monday, the path of totality would stretch across The United States from coast to coast, and much of South Carolina would experience a total solar eclipse. As darkness enveloped Charleston, a national news reporter interviewed one of many college students observing the eclipse. In the interview, this student indicated that the eclipse was awesome because he shared the moment with so many people who became a part of his new community. For him, the eclipse became an “active and coordinated effort in community-building.”
As a matter of fact, I had neglected to purchase eclipse glasses of my own and was resigned to watch this event on television. Driving past a local grocery store, I observed several store employees viewing the eclipse with their protective glasses. When I approached this gathering of employees, they invited me to join them and shared their protective glasses with me. It was an exciting opportunity to enjoy the wonder of the eclipse, as well. As I drove away, I realized that I had been a part of an “active and coordinated effort of community-building.” Though I was unknown to the group, I had become a part of the neighborhood.
As we continue to reflect upon the events in Charlottesville, Virginia, the video images of protesters wielding clubs, and even a car, against other human beings will remain with us long after we have viewed them. They are deeply disturbing and painful to watch. As a people of faith committed to social justice and opposed to racism and violence, we are called to witness, advocacy and prayer. We are called to witness not only as faithful disciples but to witness to the world the injustices we see and experience. We are called to serve as advocates to our beliefs and to clearly be advocates against prejudice, hate, racism, and violence in any form. We are called to pray. Prayer is powerful. Let us all unite in prayer for much healing is needed.
As followers of Christ, we have a sacred calling to lead our communities in tearing down the walls that divide us.
On Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017, a conversation about the church’s role in race relations will take place at Central United Methodist Church, Florence. Registration details can be found on the conference website (www.umcsc.org), and the event is open to all laity and clergy.
When the church commits itself to witness, advocacy and prayer, we make being that “active and coordinated effort of community-building” a priority. May we as the body of Christ live into God’s preferred future as disciples are made and communities are transformed. Let it be so.
By Bishop L. Jonathan Holston