Coinciding with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, "Carter G. Woodson, Jesse E. Moorland and other prominent Black Americans" began what would eventually become Black History Month in 1926. The goal was as it still is today - to lift voices, stories, and intricacies that were not necessarily taught in school or spoken of regularly, that spoke to the importance of Black lives in American History. While the Presbyterian Church still has much to confess in the institution's and individuals' participation in silencing these voices, the Church has benefited from lifting the importance of Black Americans as part of the denomination.
Not only does the church benefit when we recognize the wider diversity of God's call in our faith work together, but with many eyes, many experiences, many cultures, we particularly as presbyterians further understand the theology that we hold to when we listen and tell and are reminded of our grace based sibling-hood. Presbyterians believe that we do not need priests or clergy to stand between us and God (Hebrews 4:14-16) - instead it is Christ who takes on this work. With our individual relationships with Christ, we each have an experience of that grace and with our savior. This is why we use committees for our work together and why we do not have Bishops or other individuals with power over many; we need one another's voices and hearts so that as we make decisions together, we are able to be guided by a more fuller vision of God.
And so for this month's article I'd like to invite you to blessed by these stories in two ways. The first is to read this wonderful article about Shelton Bishop Waters who worked in the Presbyterian Church building up education, called upon his siblings in the church to create room to consider and work towards justice in the 1960s in South Carolina, and was instrumental in developing relationships across the world that we still benefit from in our World Mission programs.
Second, I'd like to urge you to connect with our partners at the Richard Allen Cultural Center & Museum which began as a means to do exactly what Black History Month intended - to lift up the stories that of African American importance in building up of the American Dream. In particular are the stories of soldiers who have passed through the Fort and therefore Leavenworth the city, who made our city as special as it is.
As Americans and as fellow followers of Christ, the church is made more whole when we hear these stories. Christ's message of love and liberation is made more full when we seek to cross lines and listen, whether we drew those lines or are inheritors of those lines; God never meant for us to use those lines as divisions.
I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. -- John 13:34-35 (NRSVUE)