A Message from Pastor Jill: The Lifelong Work of Reconciliation

Someone commented to me recently that she loves January at Hope Church because that is when we get to hear people’s testimonies about how they have experienced reconciliation. I couldn’t agree more. Hearing people share their Witness to Reconciliation in our sanctuary service is not only a highlight of the Season of Reconciliation, but if you were listening at the annual meeting on January 19th, it is one of the highlights of the year! (Manuscripts and audio of these testimonies will be shared with the congregation as they are available.)

I am awed by the magnificent creativity of the Spirit who is forever helping us find a way where there is no way when it comes to healing from pain and finding peace after brokenness. I am equally awed by the courage and wisdom present in the members of our congregation.

Scripture demands that we be a people of reconciliation. This is why Jesus came and it is the ministry he has handed over to us:

“So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!   All this is from God who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation…”    –2 Corinthians 5.17-18

This is mandated work and it is some of the most difficult work there is.  I suspect that is why we all take such encouragement from hearing how people are finding their way through it.

The themes of the Season of Reconciliation inevitably cover a wide range of concerns since brokenness touches every square inch of creation and every aspect of human life. The adult education series has been focused on violence in our society and families. The small group book study group has been diving into the writings of Oscar Romero. The Restorative Circle Facilitator Training will offer tools to strengthen people’s capacities to listen and collaborate around conflict. In past years we have looked at issues of poverty and hunger. We have a list of topics we want to explore in the future as well.

One of the places our Reconciliation ministry continues to work is in our community conversation around race.  We have been attending and tracking a series of community forums this past year looking to identify root causes of racial injustice here in Holland and mobilize to address those causes. It hasn’t been easy. Talking about race never is. If you look at the minutes from the 2013 General Synod meeting of the RCA (you all do that in your spare time, right?), you will see that we heard several reports from two different task forces working on these issues in our denomination.

One of the commitments of the RCA is to live into a “multiracial future freed from racism.”  And as you listen to the reports of these task forces they are raising our awareness that we must address white privilege if we are going to get anywhere in dismantling the lingering effects of racism. All of us agree that racism is sinful. All of us can stand up and cheer for the goal of racial equality. What is much harder to address are the root causes that are keeping us from those goals.

Rev. Denise Kingdom Grier has invited some of us from the community to join her at the White Privilege Conference in Madison, WI which will be held March 26-29.  I am planning to attend as part of my continuing education for this year and welcome anyone who might be interested in joining me to contact me. Early registration is due by February 24th*.

I look forward to the way this conference will keep pushing me deeper into this lifelong work of reconciliation in ways that challenge and intimidate me but also inspire me. I wonder where your journey will take you. Let’s keep sharing those stories!

Peace to you,
Pastor Jill

*Please keep in mind that there are fees for the event as well as travel and hotel costs involved. You can read more about the conference at WhitePrivilegeConference.com.