When I was invited to work with the Diocese of Virginia’s honored guests this January from Christ the King Diocese in Johannesburg, South Africa, I sensed, without fully understanding, how profound the blessing might be.
Reconciliation takes time. As Bishop Peter John Lee taught, “When there is a painful past of despair and frustration, we must balance the need for moving forward with the need for honoring the past; moving forward too fast can be a way of ducking accountability.” It can compound the problem and prolong the process, which is not linear, he said, but a spiral, uncovering new layers for healing as the work progresses. Our hearts, minds and bodies must be open, Bishop Lee said.
The Rev. George Palmer offered examples of how the traditions of different groups had been combined so that former enemies could worship together in a way that everyone felt “‘this is where I belong;’ and all go out rejoicing.” To be so present to each other, our friends reminded me, is how we become brothers and sisters — no longer groups of “others.” We prepare space for each other to belong. We share power.This is the ministry of reconciliation to which we all are called, where God is always with us.
“Reconciliation is a way of life,” Father George said. Seeing passion and pain in a reconciler from our Diocese, he asked, “How do you de-brief yourself [from the challenges of doing this work],” revealing how deeply this ministry is woven into his own life. Only that experience, faithfully lived, helps us to know that to do this work is to be daily present to pain, anger and grief — that of others and our own. Therefore we must learn how to persevere, because deep in our broken-open hearts, we know that we must and we will.
Each member of the Diocese of Christ the King gifted me with an open heart, truth-telling, deep wisdom, a gracious presence and God’s reconciling love. The blessing was more than I could have asked for or imagined.
By: Karen L. Donegan Salter