In May 29, 2017, I walked in a pilgrimage of trust in St. Louis, Missouri, initiated by the monastic community from Taize, France. The walk amplified local black voices.
During the walk, I got to hear stories from a priest from Ferguson, a water engineer from Nebraska, a nun from St. Louis, and a local diversity and inclusion trainer.
We walked to various faith communities — a synagogue, a provincial center for the nuns, a black Baptist church, and a mosque where the congregants generously gave us water.
We walked along the “Delmar Divide”, which has for generations been a mark of racial, cultural and economic division in St. Louis. We prayed with our footsteps and songs.
At Saint Louis University Clock Tower, diversity and inclusion trainer Amy Hunter proclaimed, “I think that we have a misconception that if you’re living a good, comfort life, if you’re going to your churches and singing a song that you are free, but I can assure you that anyone who is witnessing suffering is also suffering.”
“And that I don’t think we have a God that asks us to suffer in the name of him. I don’t think we have a God that asks us to put up with racism and Islamophobia and homophobia in the name of him.”
“I will ask you to be activists. … Jesus was an activist. Just so you know, no matter how many white Jesuses you see today, in Jerusalem, he is as brown as I am. If people of color are your brothers and sisters, then you will stand up for them. You will speak out for them.”
Then we proceeded to the Chavez Arena, where Archbishop Carlson told us, “You can’t move forward without taking the first steps … we must be willing to walk together … we must ask for a new Pentecost.”
Archbishop Carlson then told the story of a white man from St. Charles (a white, affluent community) driving to a Ferguson church for a prayer gathering and admitted he was uncomfortable being there. An elderly woman of color responded, “That’s how I feel when I drive to the store and walk in St. Charles. I’m not comfortable. I don’t know what to expect.”
The Reverend Traci Blackmon added, “I see from here the purpose of Pentecost – to gather with one purpose, to engage in a trust that is meaningful and not cheap and participate in a movement filled with love and courage.” From here, she said, we are called out to pursue conversation, connection, relationship and change.
On the Walk of Trust, I walked with hundreds of people from all over the continent, people from Quebec City and North Dakota, Ferguson and Saint Louis, New Haven and Essex, California and North Carolina; together, we took the first steps of trust.
Later that night, we watched the performance of black artists like Rebelle and C-Sharp who inspired us to embody a compassionate, humane way of being. That weekend, Amy Hunter reminded us that ending racism is like falling in love. That weekend I fell in love. I fell in love with the artists; I fell in love with the talented black faith leaders who guided the way, leaders like the Rev. Starsky Wilson, the Rev. Tracey Blackmon, the Rev. Willis Johnson, and Amy Hunter; I fell in love with the strangers around me who dared to ask hard questions, to show up, to try and to take the first steps.
Suddenly, from where I sat, I could see like Rev. Blackmon the possibility that stood ever before us – the possibility to gather with one purpose, to engage in a trust that is meaningful and not cheap and to participate in a movement filled with love and courage.
I could see the future that stretched ever before us and I was ready and energized to walk toward it. Will you join with me?