Last week I spent some time looking back on where we have been together these first three years. It was a longer post than usual, but I hope you found it helpful reminding us of a few salient points including:
- This reality of being separated right now, challenging as it may be, is not the only reality we know and will not define our context forever.
- We are on the move, and God has God’s own perfect timing. I am one who tends to get impatient, I am often more ready than most to take a dive, a chance, try something new; I fall somewhere in between “innovator” and “early adopter” in the categories defined to describe the theory of Diffusion of Innovations explaining how new ideas take shape in a community- AND I am grateful that my eagerness is often tempered by others who ask great questions and help balance the scales as we mediate our collective pace.
- There is so much we can and still must do together to help usher in the “kinship” of God in this time and place- and we are! We are reaching out to each other in new and tender ways, we are “welcoming home” more and more people each Sunday and we are looking out into the streets of Toledo asking how we can walk beside our neighbors- especially those who need an extra hand right now.
And all of this reminds me of a beautiful word from the Akan (West African) tribe in Ghana- Sankofa. The literal translation of the word is “it is not taboo to fetch what is at risk of being left behind.” The word can be broken down into these pieces:
FA (look, seek and take).
The Sankofa symbol is an image of a mythical bird whose feet and body are facing forward but its head is turned backwards. It symbolizes the important value of honoring the past and never forgetting where we have been as we move forward together. To the Akan, it is the wisdom of learning from the past that ensures a strong future.
What an absolutely exquisite way of encapsulating the import of the lessons we are being offered today- as a church and as a global community. There is no “going back.” Instead, with God’s help, grace and mercy, we will go forward with lessons learned and new eyes to see and new hands to build and repair the breaches too obvious to ignore. We must keep looking back to learn what we never completely knew or admitted before and then facing forward, link arms and move on together.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, it is also not lost on me that this beautiful word comes as a gift from a people who suffered at the hands of the European-African slave trade. Most slaves brought to North America in the 17th century were from Senegal, Gambia, Ghana, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Benin. The Africans who were taken as slaves from these countries during the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade were known as Akan.
Many of us are participating in the Episcopal program called Sacred Ground– an extended invitation to face into a very painful part of our common narrative regarding Race & Faith. This most recent session called us into a time to focus not only on the painful history and facts of slavery in this country, but also on what it means to try to come to terms with such a massive atrocity- one that defies our ability to comprehend. But understand, at some deep and abiding level we must. We must look back and then turn around together to move forward.
The past, however painful, must never be forgotten- in our distant or more recent past. May we embrace the gift of Sankofa as an invitation of the work we have to do today and a little everyday as we seek to move forward together.
Come “home” this Sunday for the last of our 3 Sundays focusing on the parables Jesus taught helping us move forward together in faith, hope and love.
May you never forget that you are loved.