Focused Spiritual Attention on Racial Justice

by | May 14, 2015

See, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.

Luke 24:49

I marvel today at the power of spiritual intention, when an individual or community focuses attention on a particular goal or concern. In an individual Christian’s life, this is most evident in personal disciplines and practices that comprise what spiritual teachers call arule of life,a way of being in the world that seeks to align one’s daily activities with core values. In Christian community, we experience this power whenever we turn our collective energies of prayer and commitment toward a common goal. In so doing, as a friend of mine likes to say whenever we decide to do something brave, we give God more to work within and through us.

Examples of focused spiritual intention in our personal lives include the decision to address areas we’ve neglected, commit to the things that give us joy, or act on the issues that trouble us. This is what Bishop Rob Wright meant when he exhorted us at our last Diocesan Convention (quoting President Theodore Roosevelt) to step into the arena

Examples of focused spiritual intention abound in our congregations, for which I give thanks to God. They include, among many endeavors, congregation-wide initiatives to engage Scripture, nurture young people, engage the neighborhood or invest in needed (and expensive) building improvements.

Last Sunday we experienced the power of collective spiritual attention throughout the diocese, when 40 congregations participated in All Mother’s Children a time of prayer, intentional preaching, and public witness. Our goal was to use the national holiday celebrating mothers to highlight our collective grief for children of color in this country who are, collectively, at far greater risk than their caucasian peers to experience violence.

As I said in my sermon, given the staggering statistics and heart-breaking testimony of disparities in our educational and criminal justice systems, I am now among those who believe these disparities to be the civil rights issue of our time. And as churches played a pivotal role in the civil rights struggles of the 1950s and 60s, I wonder how God is calling us to take our place today. Reading the sermons and other reflections from across the diocese, it seems that that the Holy Spirit is stirring in the Diocese of Washington.

As your bishop, I pray for God’s spirit of wisdom and courage to lead us. Alongside other leaders of the diocese, I commit myself to a season of prayer, study and engagement.  

Resources for our study are many, and we are beginning to catalog them on the EDOW website. Please let us know of materials that you have found useful. Specifically, if you have preached or heard a sermon in recent weeks that has addressed the events in Baltimore or other racial tensions, send them to the diocesan office so that we may discern the Spirit’s movement through our collective work.

Here are a few events that I will be part of in coming weeks. Please join me if you can.

  1. EDOW People of the Way Book Club reading of Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson. On Monday May 18th from 2-3 pm, the National Center for Children in Poverty is hosting a free webinar discussion with the author.
  2. Conversation with the Rev. Dr. Kelly Brown Douglas at Washington National Cathedral on Wednesday June 10, 7:30-9:00 pm. Theologian, Episcopal priest of our diocese, and author Kelly Brown Douglas brings her personal experience as a mother and scholarship as a theologian in her most recent book: Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies and God’s Justice.
  3. Civil Rights History Pilgrimage/ 50th Anniversary of the Martyrdom of Episcopal Seminarian Jonathan Daniels from August 12-16Canon Paula Clark and I will be taking part this historic opportunity. Up to 8 people from the Diocese of Washington can join us. For more information contact Paula Clark.