A Hope-filled End

“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”  Revelation 1:8 NRSV

Communion windoA few nights ago, I attended a small group discussion of Plato’s Meno in an effort to explore the depths of virtue and what Plato’s text had to teach us about it.  The beginning of the text begins with Meno asking Socrates if virtue can be taught or is a result of practice or if it is possessed by men by nature or some other way.  As the text goes, the reader is left wondering what the overarching nature of virtue is and if there is a single way of defining virtue that would also be true of all things which we would label as virtuous.  The text itself provides the reader no direct answer but leads the reader to think about the nature of virtue itself.  The exercise of reading the text can be a frustrating one because it does not take you from point A to point B in a way that you are able to point back to the text for an operating definition of virtue.  Instead, you finish the text without any clear answers and many more questions about the nature of virtue than perhaps you thought you had in the beginning.

The exercise of discussing the text with a small group is also  a circuitous route as you attempt to define virtue by way of the dialogue between Meno and Socrates.  Just as the text left you with no concrete answers, the discussion between friends may not leave you with any concrete answers; indeed, it may only bring additional questions to the surface that deserve their own explorations in order to come back to the original question of the nature of virtue.

The circuitous route of the conversation – and the diversions presented within the conversation – can also become an exercise of frustration if you lack the patience to make the journey.  It is a journey that starts with a claim that you seek to prove by way of logic and knowledge, and you might hope that the journey is of a linear nature by which you proceed from point A to point B to point C and so forth.  Yet, a journey seldom plays itself out so neatly.  Journeys are embedded with surprises and turns and break downs that cannot be predicted at the beginning.  A journey does not have the helpful voice of Google Maps telling you where to turn right and where to turn left.  The journey may take you far from home before depositing you right back where you began in your search for truth. Continue reading

The Giftedness of Community

“Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.”

Last week, I spent the entire work week in St. Louis at a conference sponsored by The Episcopal Church and Episcopal Relief and Development. The focus of the conference was to learn more about asset-based community development and how it can become an ethos for our own parish in our approach to outreach ministry.

At its core, asset based community development is the practice of listening to our surroundings, especially the people that are around us, to discover the gifts that are present in the community. By listening to the people that surround me, I am able to discover incredible gifts in the community that can be used to transform a community through shared work, shared listening, and shared conversation. Instead of being a program that we roll out to the community, asset based community development is a way of living that rests on the foundation of invitation and hospitality. It is a way to engage in conversation with each other in order to discover the gifts that are present in the community, and it is a way for us to recognize our own gifts that can help transform a community. Continue reading

The Cross of Privilege

It was a cold day in Atlanta as we trudged through Midtown towards the Amnesty International offices where we would be engaging in a training to become facilitators of Amnesty’s Dismantling Oppression Workshop.  I had a few expectations of what the workshop would entail and thought that I was relatively well prepared for becoming a facilitator of the workshop for other Amnesty groups throughout the Southeast.  As far as I knew, I had lived a fairly normal life.  I didn’t come from a super wealthy family and had attended public high school and was attending a public university for my undergraduate studies.  There really wasn’t too much about my life that I felt was noteworthy or of any particular importance as it related to other people.  All in all, I felt that I was the exact same as the person to my left and to my right as we all stood in a single line, shoulder to shoulder, for our first exercise of the morning.

That first exercise was something called the privilege walk.  The facilitator of our training also stood in line with us with a sheet of questions and directions for us to take as a response to the question.  For each question, participants either took a step forward or a step backward depending on how you would respond to the prompt.  For example, if you were a white male you were told to take one step forward.  If you were not white you were to take one step back.  If you were a woman, you were to take an additional step backward.  If you were able to take a vacation in the past year, you were to take one step forward.  If you were lesbian, gay, or bisexual take another step back.  If you were transgender, you were to take an additional two steps back. The exercise continued in this fashion until we reached the end of exercise.

At the end, we all looked around to see where we were relative to those that were in the training with us.  Many of us were surprised to see where we stood in relation to each other and to see that we were not, in fact, just like the person to the immediate left or right.

I was definitely surprised to see that I, ordinary little ol’ me, found myself out in front of just about everyone in the group.  I think there might have been one other person that was on the same plane as me, but it became abundantly clear to me that I had access to the most privilege in our group.  In fact, if I had been given the instruction to take one more step forward, I would have run into the wall of the room!

It was something of an epiphany for me to see just how remarkable my life had been up to that point.  I had not thought of how many things in my life, which I considered ordinary, were actually vestiges of privilege that allowed me to do things that other people simply could never dream of doing in their lives.  It was a moment that caused me to pause and to consider what having access to privilege really meant to me, and it was a moment that caused me to ask myself how I would make use of that privilege as I moved into the reality of being a young adult in a rather tumultuous and, as far as I could see, unjust world.  It was a moment of revelation, a moment of self-reflection, and a moment of calling. Continue reading