Monday, April 29, 2013

Talking about Grahamstown with St. Ambrose Episcopal Church (Raleigh, NC)

Yesterday morning I had the privilege of discussing my mission to Grahamstown at the Adult Education Forum of St. Ambrose Episcopal Church, through Skype. 

I grew up in the St. Ambrose parish under the rectorships of the Revs. Arthur Calloway, Dr. Michael Battle, and Kym Lucas. Key proponents of how I came to understand the Gospel of Jesus Christ, they have all since left, and our new Rector, the Rev. JeMonde Taylor is a dynamic and alive brother of the cloth. From the moment that I told him I'd be a missionary he has been there along the way offering prayers, helping me solicit donors, and offering much needed advice and encouragement. So, when he invited me to speak at the Adult Education Forum, I was stoked. I would get to share the Good News, and see the wonderful faces of people that reared me, loved me, and inspired me pursue a call to Holy Orders.

Speaking with my family at St. Ambrose solidified this mission as a communal effort. And I must say, it is a beautiful thing to know that I am not alone, that there is an entire community supporting me, praying for me, and just as anxious as I am to engage with the folks of Grahamstown. 

I got to see my mommy!!! And my beautiful Aunt, Ms. Wanda Kay, was also in attendance. I heard the voices of church mother's like the incomparable Norma Haywood. And met new parishioners like Mr. Henderson and his children. When Carolyn Winters asked a question I was immediately taken back to my days of serving on the altar as an acolyte, and how formative that was in my love of the church. And when Harold Mallette spoke up I thought of all of those summers that he took the St. Ambrose youth to the North Carolina coastline, or to museums--always reminding us that the blood of mystics and martyrs run through the veins of black folk. 

All that I had an opportunity to speak to felt as uplifted as I did, and I could sense a great deal of love and support. 

There's an old African proverb that reminded me of yesterday's forum, "If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together."

Investing in this Mission; Investing in our Future

"Ten thousand what...?!"

That was my reaction upon learning that I'd have to raise $10,000 as a missionary with the Young Adult Service Corps. It seemed like so much, and I really didn't think I had the acumen or relational skill-set to raise that much money in three months. And to boot, I was having adverse feelings toward this idea of fundraising not just because I wasn't sure if I would be good at it, but because fundraising always seemed to be a form of relational manipulation in order to get into someone's pockets--making nice with people in order to woe them into giving you money. Church fundraising was even more problematic for me. All that came to mind were images of flashy, self-absorbed, materialistic prosperity preachers that swindle arenas full of poor church-goers into giving their last cent so that church leaders can drive fancy cars and wear expensive jewelry.

Then, it hit me: my goal isn't to drive a fancy car, or don expensive jewelry. My goal is to build relationship with the people of Grahamstown, South Africa, and make memories that can be shared as sources of inspiration and hope for a greater humanity, a far reaching and inclusive humanity. My goal is to be an example of how connecting God's children across thousands of miles can inform how we engage cultural difference; and, how that practice of engaging difference will make us a true global community. It hit me: I am simply asking people to invest in one small step toward making our families larger, our consciences more sensitive, and the possibility for cultural understanding and peace more probable. No, I am not suggesting that we will heal the world in a year. However, I am asserting that the practice of building relationship and and being challenged to understand new and interesting perspectives is a great first step toward healing a world mired in culture wars. I believe that the violence which rises out of these wars is the result of lack of understanding, misunderstanding, and half listening. When we learn to embrace difference and deal with the fact that everybody ain't like us, I think we will learn to hate violence. When we realize that the fusion of different ideas and perspectives aids in our creative advancement (i.e. ecologically, economically, technologically etc.), then we will learn to abhor the destructive, diminutive, and limiting nature of violence.

The 21st century Christian should embrace Jesus' call to go out into the world--now more than ever, perhaps. We are more easily connected to others around the world through global economies and technology than we have ever been. Such immediate connectivity can be dangerous, particularly when experienced by groups that hold opposing ideals. However, Jesus calls us to stand in the face of that collision and search deep within ourselves for the compassion of God that patiently and silently listens, that yearns to know the other as brother, intimately, and vulnerably, that holds and does not judge, that compromises and offers grace. Each of us are called to be missionaries, carriers of the Good News. Some of us need merely to step outside of our front door. Others of us are called to the far beyond.

"Ten thousand what...?!" is slowly becoming "ten thousand...pshhh!" Because I believe God has ordained this mission, that God is calling us into a new place, because fundraising is communal effort, a practice in the kind of love we wish to share, I find that people are opening up their hearts in ways I could not have imagined. Others like the Episcopal Bishop of North Carolina, Michael Curry, also believes that we are called into the world. On behalf of the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina he has gifted this mission to Grahamstown $2500. And the vestry at my home parish, St. Ambrose Episcopal church in Raleigh, NC, has generously matched that. I hope that those of you reading will too feel connected to this mission, will feel enlivened by this mission, and will invest in building villages of love and humanhood across the globe. Information for how one might invest in this mission to begin 21st century cultural reconciliation in our own small way is below.

Checks should be made payable to:

St. Ambrose Episcopal Church
(Paul Daniels, II in the memo line)

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Let the Journey Begin...

"Community cannot for long feed on itself; it can only flourish with the coming of others from beyond, their unknown and undiscovered brothers." 

~Howard Thurman

When I look over my life I am struck by how varied yet limited are my cultural experiences. Sure, I was reared in a black neighborhood and attended a predominantly, if not totally, black Episcopal church as a child. Sure, my childhood best friend was Hindu. Sure, I love Coltrane, Sam Cooke, John Mayer and Chopin all the same. Sure, I spent my collegiate years at an institution where it wasn't unusual to see a young man argue Capitalism's inherent ravaging of the Black family while wearing a European cut suit. Surely, America is a cultural kaleidoscope where seemingly contradictory ideals are meshed into one. But, my experience of God's cultural kaleidoscope is limited to America. 

Sometime in December, on a Friday night, sitting around with my house mates, I listened to their stories of international travel and how it shaped and molded their socio-political and spiritual understanding of themselves and the world in transformative ways. I knew that that was something I wanted. I knew, more deeply, that that was something to which God was calling me. The next day, Saturday morning, I had to be at church to help the youth group prepare Christmas gifts for the families that come to the churches pantry. Walking into my office I saw a newly posted newsletter from the Episcopal Church of the USA that read, "The Young Adult Service Corps [the Episcopal Churches international service fellowship] is extending applications to January 4th."    

I saw that newsletter as affirmation of the call I'd felt less than 24-hours before. And by the grace of God and the generosity of YASC I will be serving the people of Grahamstown, South Africa for a year at the Anglican Cathedral of Grahamstown. Here, you will be able to join on the journey with me as I track my adventures, the highs and lows, the lessons learned, the lessons unfolding, and fundraising progress. This blog will hold within it my personal discovery of self, my discovery of the people of Grahamstown, and the people of Grahamstown's discovery of me. I hope you will join me on this journey of discovery and keep me nestled in your prayers. I hope that I too will be forever transformed by the experience that lies ahead!