UNITED STATES: At home in beloved community

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CPTnet
19 December 2012
UNITED STATES: At
home in beloved community

By Lizz
Schallert

In
November I received an email from Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) describing
the 21st Century
Freedom Ride, asking if someone would be willing to represent CPT on the trip.
After reviewing the website, I quickly jumped on the opportunity to spend a
weekend with Dr. Vincent Harding and dozens of folks representing present
social justice movements. I am thankful to be a part of CPT and support its work
to reduce violence and undo structural oppression.

Over the
weekend of the Freedom Ride I found myself celebrating the diversity of God’s
people: openly undocumented youth, recently incarcerated women now working
against our prison industrial complex, formerly homeless men seeking shelter
for others, sisters and brothers at various Catholic workers and intentional
Christian communities, and those carrying on the legacy of the Civil Rights
Movement by fighting for racial justice—certainly an unlikely gathering in the
eyes of the world.

What is
the thread that binds us together in our diverse ages, races, and stories? How
did we all end up on a bus travelling across southern states, visiting war zones
and holy sites of the Civil Rights Movement? As the weekend progressed, answers
to these questions emerged.

While Dr.
Harding spoke to us and encouraged us toward the New America, the “America that
must be born again,” the dust began to settle and the spool began to spin. We
all wanted to be midwives in this work—to dream, to yearn, to create this
“country that does not exist, of which we are citizens.”

Throughout
the weekend we were blessed, critiqued, and encouraged by Dr. Harding as we
envisioned a new democracy. We sat close, shared the microphone, and
incarnationally found ourselves living what we hope for.

As a
Christian, I could not help but draw connections between our discussions of
hope for a new country with my hope for a new Church. As a somewhat lost
Catholic-Quaker-Brethren who grew up in the Church of Christ, I felt at home
for a few days. Every voice mattered.  Everyone was seeking the truth.

Before boarding
the bus to Alabama I was hoping I could still make it to Mass on Sunday,
particularly in this season of Advent, when we anticipate and hope for the
return of Christ in us and the world. This desire gently diminished and
disappeared as Dr. Harding put on Ben Branch’s Operation Breadbasket
Orchestra’s version of “Precious Lord, Take My Hand” during our first gathering
over the weekend.

 
  21st Century Freedom Riders sing ‘Precious Lord.’
(The author is in blue shirt and glasses, at left.)
 

As the
song came over us our eyes began to close, our toes tapped, and we were
together.  Our barriers no longer mattered. Eternity mingled with
the present. This is the Holy Church, I thought. This is the work we are to be
about. Here we were, in 2012, a rag-tag mix of concerned citizens of a “country
that does not exist,” singing Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s last request.

Ben,
make sure you play ‘Precious Lord’ in the meeting tonight. Play it real pretty.
 –MLK Jr. on April 4, 1968 at the Lorraine Motel, just
before his assassination.

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