“What you see in large part depends on where you sit.” Those were the first words I heard this past week from Reverend Yvonne Delk, first black woman ordained in the UCC church and our spiritual guide as we began a two week immersion into urban ministry and faith based community organizing in the Chicago area.
And I’ve been sitting in many places this past week, let me tell you. Part of our immersion experience has been to travel by public transportation. The #6 Bus, the #3, the # 55, the Red Line, the Green Line, the 95W, the #112 Bus, the #112, the Metra, and of course, my feet – but not so public. We’ve been to the Community Renewal Society to hear about how communication and advocacy is working to bring awareness to social injustice in the communities and schools; we’ve been to the Chicago Coalition for Homelessness to understand how to motivate people around a common cause; we’ve visited Father Pfleger who pastors St. Sabina Catholic Church and who’s work with the people of St. Sabina has reformed and resurrected a dying and abandoned community into a place of hope; Reverend Jeremiah Wright spoke to us as one who has been that prophetic voice crying out for the world to take notice of the underserved and violated as he moves a congregation to stand with African brothers and sisters; and on Friday we met at the Centers for New Horizons and heard how people are being assisted with job location, housing , education, and childcare as a community is coming together to help its own after years of being stripped of its basic rights.
It didn’t matter where I sat this week, I saw both hurt and hope. I saw hurt in the eyes of the oppressed as they face systemic, generational, inherited injustices. I was appalled at this assumed way of life – assumed by the powers and principalities there be, assumed by white privilege – me, and even assumed by the victims of such discrimination and injustice. Is this how God intended God’s creation should live? Come Sweet Jesus, Come.
Yet in the midst of such despair, I saw hope in the eyes of community organizers who were first and foremost faithful Christians who understand the call of Jesus to serve the poor. And so they gather together to work for justice; to be the voice of those who have no voice – to bring hope to the hopeless. As the body of Christ we are called to be the hands and feet of Jesus in this broken world, so with Jesus we too proclaim:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released,
that the blind will see,
that the oppressed will be set free,
and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.”
Come, Spirit, Come and fall afresh on me.
Tomorrow: “Is it really Black and White?”