Committed to affirming the voices, stories and identities of minority ethnicities in the PCUSA, confronting the problem of structural racism in the church, and being one with all who have been bound together in baptismal unity in Christ Jesus.
Building the Kingdom of God from within
and for the Community
October 2016 Black Pastor’s Retreat
For more than four decades, black ordained clergy and seminarians from and beyond the Synod of the Covenant have been gathering together as a supportive community on a small piece of ground we call “Holy Hill” to rest, reflect, and be renewed. Since 1980, the official site of this holy ground has been the Quaker Hill Conference Center in Richmond Indiana.
The theme of our gathering this year (held October 16- 19) was “Seeking the Welfare of the City” inspired in part by Jeremiah 29:1-7.
This Year’s facilitator was The Reverend Alonzo Johnson, Interim Coordinator for the PCUSA’s ‘Self Development of Peoples’ program. Our spirits and souls were set on fire by the rhythms of the African drums he brought with him. Playing the drums together transported us to a distant place and, beyond explanation, actually allowed us to hear the singing of our ancestors and imagine their dancing. It was like a heartbeat that got faster and faster until the last sound was made and we collapsed in exhaustion and joy!
“Seeking the welfare of the City”, we concluded, was a metaphor for Love. The Love of God, who does not send his children away without providing for their return home and assuring them of a future.
The Love of Self, to managing our building and planting and working and living in such a way as to recognize our needs, minimize stress, and maximize balance (with the Christ- life giving balance to our lives). Listening to one another’s stories compelled us to say, as did Andre’ Lorde, “I have to come to believe that caring for myself is not self indulgent. Caring for myself is an act of survival.”
The third metaphor, Love of Others (which Jeremiah describes as “Seeking the welfare of the City”) prompted lament about the tension created by God’s directive to seek the welfare (shalom) of the very city/ people/person/place where one is being oppressed, in addition to caring for one’s self. Ego wants to know, “Why should I care about it/them when it/ they doesn’t/don’t care about me?” The Welfare of the City says “Seek Shalom anyway.” Unresolved is the tension created by the belief that there can be no peace without justice and our understanding that Love takes priority over everything else (Mark 12: 31). Perhaps even the pursuit of justice and, if so what does that mean and look like as we continue to pursue justice in the courts, our streets and the church?
Intentional time and space were made for silence- for listening instead of talking- and being alone with God in spirit and for activities to nurture and restore physical bodies. Time on the Holy Hill was sacred time for laughing, affirming, consoling, making future plans, and finding rest- at least temporarily- from the privileges associated with being Black and pastors.
The 2016 Irvin Mosley Black Pastors Theology and Care Retreat Participants