Several years ago on a February Sunday, Rev. Charles Harrison, pastor of the mostly black Barnes UMC in Indianapolis, and I did a pulpit exchange. He preached at St. Luke’s, and I went to Barnes that morning. Before the early service, I had a few moments to wait in Charles’ study before joining the choir to enter the sanctuary. I browsed his bookshelves, as pastors often do.
I immediately noticed a number of commentaries and other theological books I also have. Charles and I are not far apart in age, so many of these represent the books theological schools of our time required. But those were few. The majority of the books I didn’t recognize. That’s because they were written by mostly black theologians and biblical scholars. I found myself wishing I had time to sit in his study and browse these books. I felt as I poured over the titles and authors that there was a whole wealth of knowledge I knew nothing about, and I even acknowledged this to his congregation later in the service.
I recalled this experience listening to national debates about black history classes and resources being banned or not being funded in certain school systems. This is peculiar to me because since the invention of the Gutenberg press, some of the worst movements in world history began with ignoring and banning certain books. Learning history from other voices and perspectives only enlightens our understanding of history.
As we begin Black History month, I encourage you to investigate and read materials that could deepen your perspective, particular books by black Christian authors. A few I recommend are James Cone’s The Cross and the Lynching Tree, Kevin Murriel’s Breaking the Color Barrier, and Jamar Tisby’s How to Fight Racism and The Color of Compromise. You can also find more resources at stlukesumc.com/antiracist.
Remember, no one can force us to learn anything. We can be forced to read and study certain things - as in, “you won’t get a diploma or certificate if you don’t study this material.” But true learning is always a choice, a choice to understand. Maybe this is why Jesus called people to be his disciples, a word that literally means “learners.” Let’s all try to learn some things this month we don’t already know, so we can be healers of what continues to be a major divide in our nation.
Have a great weekend,
*Be sure to click on the funerals notice below. We have a number of services upcoming, particularly ones for two former choir members Art King and Steve Claffey.
Many of you have requested updates about members of our congregation who have passed away. We will now be posting funeral services on stlukesumc.com/care.