Tuesday, October 24, 2017

going deeper with a more radical challenge...

On Sunday I participated in an important local event re: challenging and healing
the breach caused by white supremacy, sexism and antisemitism. The local paper, the Berkshire Eagle, is working hard to be a voice of wisdom and solidarity in our community. And while I always yearn for greater depth, it is working hard and I support it. The modest review of our symposium can be found @ http://www.berkshireeagle.com/stories/community-leaders-gather-for-forum-healing-pittsfield-a-conversation-about-what-divides-us,522558.

Today, the editors weighed in on this matter. Another good sign. But for whatever reason, they missed my deeper challenge. Black and white allies have been talking about this for 50 years - and not much has changed. We all tend to report out the obvious facts, without pushing the envelope towards radical change. And, IMHO that's what the paper left out.  What follows is my letter encouraging a redress so that we might do the hard work of listening, learning, unearthing our shadows and light and then seeking concrete ways of living into repentance and forgiveness.

To the editor:
I was pleased that the Eagle chose not only to send a reporter and photographer to the recent PACC "Healing Pittsfield Conversation About What Divides Us," but also to go deeper with today's editorial. There were, however two omissions in your editorial. The first, and least important, is that Rabbi Josh Briendel was not a panelist, but a moderator. I, in fact, was the fourth panelist. The second and far more important omission was my challenge to Pittsfield that included:

1) A grassroots commitment to supporting The People's Suppers movement that brings strangers and potential political opponents together for an evening meal and conversation. As the event's other moderator, the Rev. Shelia Sholes-Ross noted: Pittsfield could stand to do some bread breaking together in pursuit of healing our fractured identity. When I was pastor in Cleveland, OH the Community Relations Board regularly brought merchants, citizens and politicians together with clergy and civic leaders for a supper. A lot can happen when we pass one another the butter beans and are not meeting in a polarized setting. (for more information:

2) A shared year of research and reporting on the "shadows and light" of our community when it comes to racism, sexism and Antisemitism. So many of our neighbors don't know the ways we have historically wounded one another. Nor do we know the ways we have strengthened our better angels over the past 255 years. My proposal asked the key institutions to engage in a year of changing our collective ignorance and neglected history so that we might grow beyond our divisions. My friends in Canada recently did something similar in uncovering their own broken history re: First Nations People.

3) A public ritual based upon our year of story telling much like South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission. We will not advance the cause of solidarity by repeating the obvious facts. Rather, we must dig deeper and acknowledge the wounds we have caused - and ask one another for forgiveness. Then, and only then, will we have a fighting chance of overcoming the divisions we have only talked about for the past 50 years. .

I know the Eagle is committed to getting the story right and thank you in advance for your attention to this matter.

The Rev. Dr. James Lumsden

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