Beloved St. John’s community,

We have reached the final week of our “Six Week Introduction to a Lifelong Journey: Dismantling Racism through Jesus’ Way of Love.” This week, our theme is Discern: What does God call us to do next, as individuals and as a community?

There are a hundred million things we as individuals and as a community could do with regard to systemic racism, and all of them would be good. In fact, as we’ve moved through these weeks deeply learning and being moved and disturbed by systemic racism, there may have been times for all of us when we’ve felt overwhelmed and stuck. Where do you even start?

My friends, the great good news about our approach is that we are precisely not having the conversation about systemic racism from the same place, or with the same paradigms and limitations, as the way we’re hearing it around us in our culture. Instead, we are part of the body of Christ—a vast living organism stretching across time and space. We have the very presence and leading of God, millennia of tradition and stories and examples and leadership, that can help us commit to this journey for the long haul and take one step after another, using the practices of Jesus’ Way of Love.

So let’s have courage and turn our attention to discernment. Here’s what church innovator Alan Roxburgh has to say about what discernment is for us:

  • Discernment is …a different way of seeing and being. . . First, discernment assumes God is already active in the neighborhood. Second, it assumes that listening with our own ears and seeing with our own eyes gives us clues to where God is at work. Third, discernment depends on a willingness to be surprised about the places and among the people where the Spirit might be at work. Fourth, it involves being present without a predetermined strategy for assessment. Discernment is the way we practice the conviction that the Spirit is already out ahead of us.” – Alan Roxburgh, Joining God, Remaking Church, Changing the World, chapter seven (emphasis added)

In other words, we are beginning with a powerful premise: God is already at work to dismantle racism in our very city, and we can discern where that is happening in the spaces we are most connected with already, and throw our presence and energy into participating with God. We aren’t so much discerning what program we should create as discerning the presence of God at work in our greater community to dismantle racism and bring about the Beloved Community, and then innovating to participate in what the Spirit is already up to. How?

This takes both a paradigm shift and practice. Our St. John’s community will be discussing this Sunday morning during our sermon discussion with Sondra Samuels, and on Wednesday night July 29 in our Dismantling Racism Zoom call, and we will continue to discern God’s leading going forward.

In preparation for these conversations and the action to follow, I’d like to invite us all to a daily spiritual practice—simply “paying spiritual attention.” As you go through your day, notice if there are any moments when you seem to encounter the holy—when you feel your heart “burning within you;” when you sense a particular potency of life, vitality, love; when you feel a sense of expansiveness, hope, power, or the quiet but clear presence of God. Then, don’t just skip over those moments. Find time to take them in, reflect on them. Consider them to be a gift from God that you can unwrap and engage. Pay particular attention to when you sense these moments as you are doing your personal reflection on dismantling racism.

For example, I have felt these stirrings when we’ve engaged with Don and Sondra Samuels in North Minneapolis, in their “Healing Our City” initiative. I have felt them when I learned that Pastor Paul Slack from Liberty Church in North Minneapolis, who has been advising me and the St. John’s “dismantling racism” team during these six weeks, has been very active advocating for the Governor of Minnesota to declare systemic racism a public health crisis. I have felt these moments listening deeply to all of you in our Wednesday evening small group conversations, as I’ve witnessed our groups crystallizing into hopeful people committing themselves more deeply to Jesus’ Way of Love for the long haul.

We will discern, together, what God is calling us to do next. Let’s listen, hearts and ears and eyes wide open, ready to be interrupted, surprised, and empowered by what the Spirit is up to.

Faithfully,
Lisa