It’s been a pretty good week.
In the short span of a few days, we’ve seen the Fair Housing Act upheld (a huge victory for civil rights law), healthcare reform protected, the president break into song, and marriage rights extended to all.
Then, yesterday, we witnessed another slice of history when this church elected Bishop Curry as the new Presiding Bishop.
(Possibly, the other slice of history was the entire House of Deputies going on a hunger strike until we got to see our new PB. We took that “humans do not live by bread alone” thing quite literally.)
I joked with someone that it was possible that God had decided to pile up all the stored-up progress we were due for in the past 5 years to dump it on this week. The arc of justice had looked like a straight line until suddenly we hit a right angle.
Archbishop Oscar Romero once commented that we almost never see the fruits of what we do as workers in God’s vineyard. We can work so hard for so long, and the harvest is for someone else to reap—so our actions must be radically dependent on God for an outcome. He himself was martyred by a government-paid assassin while he was embroiled in fights with his own church hierarchy, while his people were starving and dying, and while his country was tearing itself apart. He never lived to see the new life he brought to his country—and I think he was laughing when he was beatified by the pope last month.
So often in the church, and never more so than at Convention, we argue and struggle for the tiniest bit of forward movement. We cover the same ground over, and over, and over and over again, until we wonder if God is taking someone else’s call, or maybe we just need to throw in the towel and become Buddhist for a while.
And then, suddenly, without our realizing it, we arrive at the place we thought we’d never be. And suddenly it turns out that all that fighting, all those who sacrificed again and again, all those steps that were so tiny they appeared inconsequential brought us here.
Not because we were so smart, or so wise, or so politically astute-but because it turns out God was with us the whole time.
And God’s dawn from on high is breaking upon us.
Since last August, when Michael Brown was killed in Ferguson, I’ve been listening to a lot more Nina Simone. Praying through music is the spiritual discipline I find great comfort in, so as anger, sorrow, and frustration rolled across Missouri and the country, I sang along to the great Ms Simone as she wished she knew what it would feel like to be free.
(Also, may I recommend “Mississippi Goddamn”? Pardon the language, but if you think you are angry about intractable racism in this country, Ms. Simone would like to sing to you.)
After our joy-tinged Eucharist when SCOTUS announced the marriage ruling, the jazz combo kept playing. ‘Down by the Riverside’ turned into ‘Wade in the Water’ which turned into Ms. Simone’s ‘I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel (To be Free)’. People stayed and sang along, hands aloft, swaying to the music.
There’s still lots and lots to do in the world. Six Black churches have been burned across the South this week. Mass incarceration is still the law of the land. Gun violence is out of control, and war grips the world…but for a moment, for a heartbeat—may we take this breath, as the arc finally bends, and feel what it means to be free.
The Rev. Megan Castellan is an alternate deputy from the Diocese of West Missouri.