During a wonderfully painful & hopeful confluence of the #BlackLivesMatter and #ICantBreathe spotlights on systemic racism and the release of the film Selma, Philadelphia joined many other US cities in the effort to reclaim the MLK holiday as a day of disrupting the status quo. Our church, Circle of Hope, has been making some concerted efforts this month to be shaped deeper by the legacy of Dr. King as well as open our sails wide to the winds of the Spirit.
As a group of us have been gearing up for the Kinsler Institute “Between Seminary, Sanctuary, Streets and Soil: a Festival of Radical Discipleship” next month in Southern Califiornia, I got to connect with a friend and Sacred Jazz artist willing to do some spiritual midwifery with our congregation. I first met Warren Cooper five years ago when he collaborated on a Sunday with Ched to preach during the afterglow of the Gathering Around the Unhewn Stone at our place. As we re-connected this time, Warren offered to bookend the MLK festivities by joining us for consecutive Sunday meetings with his cerebral yet heartfelt worship leading and teaching.
On Sunday he began getting everybody up and clapping a simple beat. As we stood in a near-complete circle skatting back his calls, we flashed smiles to one another and could feel something beautiful happening among us. Warren then taught us tenor, alto, and soprano parts for a new arrangement of a famous civil rights song before breaking into his newly track Peacemaker’s Blues. I got to join him on my guitar for that one and the next – Precious Lord, Take My Hand (a favorite of both Dr. King and our congregation).
As for his speech, Warren’s pastoral embrace focused us on the BEING of who/what the Spirit is calling us to be even as we took it to the streets the next day and beyond. Considering God calling Abram (Genesis 12) and Jesus calling Zebedee’s sons (Matthew 4) – we wondered what could compel us up out of our comfort zones (or our perpetually personal perimeter as he put it). What are we prepared to do for justice? Would we respond to God’s call now?
During the customary “talkback” after someone speaks, Warren responded to questions about what makes the movement sparked by Ferguson so significant and wealth redistribution. He said that the proverbial Periodic Table had a new spot emerge for a new element that is emerging through an alchemy of what we have and what we need. The movement sprouting up out of Ferguson speaks to the heart of our communities and brings the pain of injustince into national consciousness. He explained that rather than looking for redistribution of resources, we need to focus on regeneration of wealth from the community and ended with
In justice we find peace. In peace we will find God. In God we will find love. In love we will find justice.
The next afternoon, over 200 of us gathered with the 3-6 thousand for the MLK Day of Action, Resistance, and Empowerment march for while another 40 kept a 24hr prayer vigil. I am anticipating something beautiful this Sunday when Warren returns as a sort of follow-up – or as he put it
to focus and organize all of the accrued energy from that, and to parlay it into a tangibly sustainable higher gear…of product and/or process…and/or discipleship operation…moving forward on the journey of being organized agents for transformation…from the inside out.