“We won’t heal anything in this great divide if we’re not intentional; and all the good intention in the world will amount to nothing if we fail to invest in ongoing relationships with real people.”
Thursday afternoon I accompanied the pastors of our church (Rebekah and John) to a seminar – hosted by Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary – titled, “IT’S TIME: an interracial dialogue, WAKE FOREST.”
The event had three expressed purposes. First, to encourage conversation in our community. Second, for Wake Forest to be more proactive in preventing the systemic breakdown of inter-race relations that has made for such disturbing headlines in so many communities over the past few months. Third, to raise money for the local mission of Hope House and Habitat for Humanity.
Plans called for 25 tables and 200 participants. I’d say there were 125 people present.
We listened to five speakers, with a ten-minute table discussion between each presentation. Each talk proffered a sample of the standard rhetoric for such events. Mayor Vivian Jones summarized the current initiatives the city has in place, and she strongly encouraged more intentional minority participation; then we had three “sermons” that – for me – had the effect of unnecessarily narrowing the parameters of the conversation; finally, Rev. Ken Steigler gave the shortest, but most practical presentation of the afternoon.
BEST THING, BEST MOMENT: The best thing about the seminar was the talk around the tables. I had some very constructive dialogue with a pastor, a seminary student from Atlanta (he came from Zimbabwe seven years ago), a retired high-school teacher, another seminary student, a visitor from out-of-town, and a city employee.
The best moment of the event was when Dr. Holloway, halfway through his presentation, looked at someone from the Wake Forest Rotary Club and said, “I’m going to join your Club.” He will be, so far as I understand, the only representative of the African-American community.
INTENTION: The key words that surfaced, time and again, were the words “Intention” and “relationships,” and that was the thrust of Ken Steigler’s message.
“Take a piece of paper,” he said, “write down your name and your phone number, and then give it to the person of another race that you will be inviting to dinner in your home sometime in the next three weeks.”
My invitee and I exchanged email addresses; “making a phone-call is so old-school,” she told me.
Over at Rebekah’s table, she looked at the man sitting next to her and they both laughed… because they’d already made dinner plans a half-hour earlier.
Long post, but here’s my short message: We won’t heal anything in this great divide if we’re not intentional; and all the good intention in the world will amount to nothing if we fail to invest in ongoing relationships with real people.
Stay tuned; I’ll let you know how this goes. In the meanwhile, what are you going to do?
Peace , in every way – DEREK