The Rev. Glenna Huber offered this reflection after her first Gathering in Maryland, which took place in October of 2023.
In October of 2023 I was finally able to attend my first Gathering of Leaders. A confluence of life events had caused me to cancel or pass on previous invitations, but this year the time and location in Maryland made it possible to attend. Our topic of Racial Reconciliation & Discipleship in the Missionary Church was of interest since much of my ministry is centered around sharing God’s love through acts of justice.
The backdrop of our time together included the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza region, as well as the run up to All Saints’ Day. The Bishop Claggett Center, where our Gathering was held, was originally home to the Choptico Band of Piscataway Indians and other indigenous peoples in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. We know from the Claggett Center history that the land was never ceded nor sold. We are also aware, from the Claggett Center history, that some of those who tended the lands were enslaved individuals and they had a designated plot on the grounds for burial. Now, numerous iterations of land use, and generations later we gathered to reflect on the ways in which our own faith communities were addressing the pressing justice concerns of our contexts.
What a gift to be able to hear from others who are consistently doing the diligent and sometimes difficult work to shift the tenor of conversations around race, and racism, so that the possibility of reconciliation can be possible.
Since this was my first time attending I was invited to offer the liturgical framework for the Holy Eucharist. My efforts on this topic have allowed me to expand my lens to include the scourge of environmental racism and the adverse effects on those who are poor and historically underrepresented. One resource that I have used is called Liturgies from Below, Praying with People at the End of the World: by Claudio Carvalhaes. The book was a project sponsored by the World Council of Churches to capture the prayers of those suffering at the hand of the empire. These are the prayers of those who are experiencing racism, oppression, poverty and injustice from Asia-Pacific Islands, Jamaica, Africa, Europe, and the Americas. I especially appreciate the prayers and liturgies because of the relationship with the earth. The commodification of earthly resources and God’s people led to an exploitation that is reflected in these prayers. As some of us were primed to hear a version of the Beatitudes the upcoming weekend I highlighted the Beatitudes from the book within our liturgy.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for there is the kingdom of Heaven. And they are still poor. And the poor get killed, every day, in our street, in our midst.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
And the mothers, the children continue to weep in pain and in anger.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. And they die, every meal, every day. And their hunger kills them in their every meal.”
Powerful words, as we reflected on the role of the faithful as it regards the needs of those who are on the receiving ends of oppressive systems.
We lamented and confessed the sin of silence and complicity. As we moved towards the liturgy over the table, both the prayers and the music invited us to reconnect to the earth, and our eternal hope. Yes, we know that the work of creating Beloved Community here on earth, in our communities, and in our churches is difficult. We prayed for the humanitarian crisis happening on lands far away from where we were worshiping knowing that we can only do our little bit of good where we were. We affirmed that God redeems and listened to an artist that challenged us with her lyrics, vocals, and imagery. Our final hymn by Victory was called Just Like in Heaven and we sang:
Let Your justice reign on Earth (Let it be done)
Just like it reigns in Heaven
Let Your mercy cover the Earth (Let it be done)
‘Cause it’s running over in Heaven
Let Your love conquer the Earth (Let it be done)
‘Cause it already governs the heavens
Let revival come on Earth (Let it be done)
‘Cause it’s everyday up in Heaven
Let Your choir sing on Earth
This liturgy pushed us to move out of our comfort zones. We prayed the prayers of those who are found on the margins, those who suffer at the hands of political and violent crimes. We prayed the words of pain, lament, anger, and hope. A missional church is one that is willing to try on new ways of being to help move us closer to the dream God has for creation. Gathered together on unceded land, we sat in our discomfort, prayed unfamiliar prayers, and recommitted ourselves to sharing the Good News of God’s promise to redeem us all.
The Rev. Glenna Huber serves at The Church of the Epiphany in Washington, D.C.
The December Enews continues here.