Dear Friends in Christ;
I am writing for two reasons.
The first is to encourage you to attend the upcoming Anti-Racism Training which will be offered on October 5th and 6th at Saint Martin’s Church in Monroeville. This training has been mandated by General Convention for all leaders and staff in parishes and dioceses, as well as by resolution of our own diocesan convention.
The second is to give you some idea of why I have elected to take this training myself in the Diocese of Pittsburgh.
When I was a little boy, we lived for a few years in central Louisiana. I was learning to read at the time, and on a visit to a shopping center with my mother, I saw two water fountains, side by side, each with a large sign above it. The sign above one read, “White Only;” the one above its neighbor read, “Colored Only.” I could not understand them. What was “white” or “colored” about water? I started to ask questions in my usual not very quiet way, and I remember the stony stares directed at me as my mother ushered me quickly away. When we got to the car, and were starting to drive off, I stopped asking. My mother’s face was sad. She was quiet with grief.
I did not think much about this incident again until the night of April 4, 1968. I was fourteen. We lived in a large house at Fort Myer, Virginia, which had a commanding view of the city of Washington. I was getting ready for bed, and came downstairs to say goodnight to my mom. I found her in the living room, looking out the large bay window, tears streaming down her face. The city was burning. “Dr. King has been shot,” she whispered. We sat together for several minutes watching the flames and columns of smoke. Finally, she said firmly, “I have got to do something.”
And she did. She started to make what my grandmother would have called “a whole lot of fuss.” She went to meetings, rallied with local clergy, tutored in schools, helped out in community centers, and more than once she dragged me along with her. This was way out of my comfort zone, and I hated it, but I started to learn about racism, and (reluctantly) about my own. I am still learning.
I am aware of the fact that I don’t have to think about race all the time, and that people of color in America do not have the same luxury. I also know that developing a habit of inquiry and action around such matters needs training, so that we can move toward a Church that more deeply embodies the vision of Saint Paul, where there is “neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female,” in which the whole spectrum of humanity for whom Christ died might be equally visible, empowered and genuinely interdependent.
I hope you will join me on Friday, October 5th, at 3:00 p.m. for the beginning of this time of learning and fellowship which many in this diocese have found so valuable. In the meantime, be assured of my prayers for you and your ministries.
Faithfully in Christ,
The Rev. Dorsey W.M. McConnell
For more information and to register for the workshop, go to http://www.episcopalpgh.org/