“Joshua ‘fit’ the battle of Jericho, and the walls came a tumblin’ down.”
That was one of my favorite bible songs growing up in a Southern Baptist Church. But I didn’t see many walls come down as we struggled with racism. It was a tradition for our military high school band to attend church with the captain, but when I tried to bring our newly integrated band to church, I hit an unexpected wall. Church leaders informed me, using a racial slur, that our black members would never be welcome.
The Presbyterian Church I attended at Duke included mill workers and professors; blacks, Asians, whites, young, old. It was a lively diverse community where Ephesians 2:14 was lived out: “Christ has broken down the dividing wall.” As my call developed, reaching beyond and healing divisions that divide became a dominant theme.
In 1970 we opened Logos Bookstore in Harvard Square, pioneering new ways to build bridges to a questioning and skeptical generation. My pastoral ministry focused on church transitions, helping folks see with the eyes of the heart that Christ has truly demolished the walls that tend to divide congregations and society.
For 16 months now I have struggled to hear anew God’s call in retirement. The theme seems to be BEYOND WALLS – with three directions so far.
First, through Concord Prison Outreach I am exploring going beyond prison walls, seeking to create safe places for the incarcerated to find new identity and purpose in life.
Another wall we all face is the denial of death, and our culture’s unwillingness to engage in healthy family conversations about end of life issues. We had a great Adult Ed series on this topic, and I have worked with The Conversation Project and am pursuing other possibilities to encourage a healthy discourse, planning for a good death and good, humane process of dying.
Third, given the racial tensions and staunch political resistance to dealing with a more humane immigration policy, we must continue to actively and creatively pursue and embody justice, peace, and reconciliation.
God is at work; still speaking, and continuing to break down walls that divide. Just look around; you can see the evidence right here in our midst. Thanks be to God.