Editor’s Note: I am delighted to share another dispatch from Mr. Randy Gamble of Memphis, Tennessee. I especially appreciate Randy’s observations about “tapping into the energy” of the next generation of young adults, in whom, like me, he finds great hope for friendship and healing across racial divides.
I thought about the beginning of our communication with each other when I came across your book this year. This reminded me of a book called Letters Across the Divide: Two Friends Explore Racism, Friendship, and Faith, by David Anderson (black man) and Brent Zuercher (white man). We are using the computer to exchange our thoughts and feelings, which is a good method for me in releasing a lot of distresses. In the short time we have begun this journey of faith together I have come to learn many things from you, because I hear a lot of commonality and similarity.
I liked in your book when Sr. M. Shawn Copeland says “we a body of broken bones that needs to be reset,” which made me think of the Old Testament in making the dry bones come alive. There is a song that goes “Every time I feel the spirit / moving in my heart / I will pray” – that is how I get my inspiration to write something down that comes to mind. Sights give me insights about things spiritual, which is why I like the Parables that Jesus shares with the apostles.
One of the most rewarding moments I had was when Ms. Shannen Williams spoke to the Theology on Tap group in 2012 at a restaurant here in Memphis. She was working on her dissertation at Rutgers University, on the topic of “Subversive Habits: Black Nuns and the Struggle to Desegregate Catholic America after World War I.” I thought this was a good fit to really connect with young white Catholics, listening to someone around the same age that had something important to share.
In the audience there were also some older African American Catholic parishioners from Holy Names Church, to support and encourage Ms. Williams on her journey. Several older European American Catholics also showed up to hear her speak, and there was also an African American Catholic nun who shared her journey based on her experiences of being black in the Catholic Church.
Ms. Williams also spoke at the National Civil Rights Museum (NCRM), which is built at the site where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, and I was again present to hear her. It was uplifting to hear her tell again the history of what African American Catholic nuns had to experience in the church and society. I was proud of Ms. Williams for taking the time to do this, because of what the nuns experienced was a civil rights issue at the time.
I think it is necessary to seek out new possibilities and “to boldly go where no person has gone before,” as it says at the beginning of Star Trek, and I find that especially in our young adults. By offering an opportunity for young adults to engage with each other across boundaries, this experience was a “Graced Encounter Across the Color Line,” just one of many that offers up hope for the future of the church in tapping into the energy of our young adults who will be our leaders.
There was a speech called “They Look To The Future” by Martin Luther King Jr., which he gave to the Highlander Folks School in 1957 – so let’s go and do likewise. Hope does sing beautiful when we are open to listen and hear the music coming from the heart, like the movie “The Sound of Music”.
I would like to hear your story of possibilities that have sprung up and spread like wild flowers, because all of us are just a radiant light of that beauty that God has created inside. Keep the faith and keep hope alive, because the world needs that essence.
p.s. What has been your Black History Month experience? Here is something that I and a white woman did together as a display board at our parish to highlight that history, which gave us an opportunity to get to know each other’s story. . . When God puts two people together for a purpose you just never know what will materialize, so enjoy the sights of what you see.
p.p.s. Here is also something about a “Sankofa Journey” that I wanted you to know about.