On July 1, we will celebrate the 14th anniversary of The Cornelius Corps! There is a phrase that has become very meaningful in our ministry over the past year—Remember and Recommit. In general this reminds me to remember and be thankful for all the ways that God has led and provided for us since The Cornelius Corps began in July of 2001. It is also a reminder to recommit to the calling of God to build bridges of transformed lives and relationships as disciples of Jesus Christ. In particular Remember and Recommit is the name of a new and exciting initiative focused on discipleship and racial reconciliation. Currently two churches in Richmond, VA are working with us on this initiative – Asbury UMC (a predominantly African American congregation) and Centenary UMC (a predominantly white congregation).
Remember and Recommit has two main components: 1) Six Workshops over eighteen months in which we remember major events and persons from the modern civil rights movement of the 1950’s and 60’s to better understand this non-violent and faith based movement for freedom and social change and recommit to the ongoing struggle for equality and justice in our day. 2) A Covenanted Small Group of participants from both churches that meets twice each month and is committed to deepening their relationships with each other through shared spiritual practices, planning the workshops, and addressing justice related issues in their community. Two people in the Remember and Recommit Covenant Group – Matt Bates from Centenary UMC and Regina Leftwhich from Asbury UMC wrote the two articles in this edition of our newsletter. As our nation continues to struggle with racial tensions, their articles are a sign of hope and a call to remember the witnesses of the past and recommit ourselves to the way of love and equality in Jesus in our day. It is our plan to replicate this initiative in other cities _ and regions as a way to build relationships that promote racial reconciliation and justice. If you or s your church community are interested in learning more about or participating in Remember and - Recommit, please contact me.
Our ministry continues through your faithful prayers and financial support. We are in special need of your support as we approach the end of the year. You can make your contribution in two ways: • You can write a check payable to “The Cornelius Corps” • You can give online by clicking the “Donations” tab on our website: www.corneliuscorps.org
First, I have learned that though I thought I had a good understanding of the history of the modern Civil Rights Movement, there is so much I did not know. For instance, in learning about the lunch counter sit-ins, the march in Selma, and the Freedom Rides, I do not think I ever fully understood just how brutal and inhumane angry whites responded to these non-violent efforts for justice. Second, I have learned that no matter how much I had assumed that I could understand another person's perspective through imagination and empathy, I cannot possibly know what their experience is like unless they tell me. Therefore, I need to learn to ask questions—and then listen! Third, I have learned that many of the things happening in our nation today–Ferguson, Baltimore, New York—are the products of a long history of intentional racial discrimination and exclusion. When African American members of our group talked about the real fears they’ve experienced riding subways in New York City as young people, or the financial difficulties they and their parents and grandparents have experienced because of predatory and discriminatory lending practices from the past that made something as simple as buying a used car nearly impossible, or when we discuss the gap in wealth between blacks and whites and recognize that our African American sisters and brothers have always known that laws around property and housing were intentionally stacked against them, I realize that the sin and evil of racism still casts a long shadow across our nation. And when I am led not only to repent of my own sin, complicity, and indifference, but to begin to wonder whether this history has so tainted the present and future as to preclude any possibility for real change and true reconciliation, I hear one of our African-American brothers say something like, “I really am hopeful. Just naming this problem honestly is a huge step forward. I see a lot of Christians stepping forward in these difficult times. I see young people with different attitudes. I have hope. I believe that God’s love and grace and mercy will lead us to a new day.”
I’m grateful—grateful for our covenant group and these honest conversations, grateful for Jim and The Cornelius Corps, grateful for the workshops. And like my hopeful friend, I have to be hopeful that our small steps together just might lead us a little closer to the vision of God’s kingdom of justice, peace, and love.