(For the church's weekly email)
You may have heard me speak about growing up in Portsmouth, Virginia, and the brick sidewalks and old houses and the church of my childhood. But in my first year of seminary, I met a classmate who also grew up in Portsmouth and realized I quite literally did not know the half of my hometown.
While I skipped around Olde Towne, Gordon grew up in the neighborhood of Effingham Street, where our maid, Catherine, lived. His dad pastored a church, and when he told me the name, I realized there must be a whole world of churches in Portsmouth that I never knew. In a class called "Hymns and Worship," we compared our backgrounds while singing music from lots of traditions and working on a group project together.
One day the instructor had us turn to a hymn I did not know, and as was our practice, we stood to sing it together. Gordon said to me, "This is the Black National Anthem." The beautiful words written by the poet, James Weldon Johnson–how did I not know them? I lived, still, in a cocoon of comfort and privilege, without realizing.
- Lift every voice and sing,
- 'Til earth and heaven ring,
- Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;
- Let our rejoicing rise
- High as the listening skies,
- Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
- Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
- Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us;
- Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
- Let us march on 'til victory is won.
As a nation, we begin a new day today, one in which limited images for who can be President or who might live in the White House will be changed forever. I hope I will continue to have my eyes opened about the differences between my reality and the way other people live, the challenges they may face and the commonalities we share. As the President-Elect said in his speech last night, "Our stories are singular, but our destiny is shared."
And however we feel about specific issues, may we have the grace and the graciousness to support our new President and his family with our prayers.
Lift every voice!