Posted by: Titus Presler | December 14, 2011

Once Separate, Now Together: Meditation for Advent III Wednesday

One of the great transformations of recent world history was South Africa’s change from a political system based on racial separation and White domination to a democratic state in which the Black majority could shape a national future.

Equally compelling was the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, led by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, which became a sign that God’s vision for reconciliation can be realized in a public, national and secular political process.  That work could not and did not achieve full justice and reconciliation.  Instead, it was a sign, a sign that pointed to a vision that many others strive to fulfill.

Among them are James and Lorine Williams, Episcopal missionaries from Buffalo, New York, who serve St. Peter’s Church in Klerksdorp in the Diocese of Msalato, with James as the rector.  St. Peter’s used to be a White congregation that did not welcome Christians of other races.

As African Americans, James and Lorine knew first-hand the wounds of racial discrimination in the United States and the dynamics of working to change entrenched patterns of exclusion.  They went to St. Peter’s envisioning a congregation that would offer participation to all.

And they went with love.  They cared deeply for every person and let all know they had a place.  The transformation has been remarkable.  Whites stayed.  Blacks came, as did Asians and so-called Coloreds.  At the Peace in the liturgy everyone welcomes everyone.  Today St. Peter’s is a sign of the Rainbow People of God that Archbishop Tutu talks about.  It anticipates the reconciled multi-ethnic humanity gathered before God in the Revelation to St. John the Divine.

Whatever our race or ethnicity, it marks us as different from other races and ethnicities.  These differences have prompted separation, oppression, hatred and violence the world over, whether in Detroit or Darfur, Johannesburg or Jerusalem, Sri Lanka or Chicago.  It continues true that Sunday morning is one of the most racially separated times in USAmerican life.

Congregations that draw in the full diversity of their communities signify the reconciled humanity that Jesus was born to herald.  They are counter-signs to separation.  In this season people from every family, language, people and nation are preparing to kneel at the manger.  Can we do that together?

This meditation is excerpted from Titus Presler’s “Alert for Signs: Seeing and Praying through Advent” (Forward Movement Publications).  A 20-minute video presentation of the Williams’ ministry appears in “Windows on Mission,” a video collection about the work of about a dozen missionaries in various parts of the world.

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