By Amy Howton
This blog article originally appeared on the webpage for the Diocese of Southern Ohio Becoming Beloved Community
On Sunday, January 19, four congregations gathered together to reflect on their engagement with Sacred Ground: A Film-Based Dialogue Series. St Simon’s of Cyrene hosted and Ascension Holy Trinity, Christ Church, Glendale and St Barnabas of Montgomery joined.
Initially, the plan was to use Sacred Ground as a tool to both engage individual congregations and a bridge that could connect congregational growth to cross-congregational community building. It began with the historical ACTS ministry (St Simon’s, Ascension Holy Trinity, Transfiguration Spirituality Center, and Christ Church Glendale) and then St. Barnabas wanted to join, too.
This past Sunday, in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr Holiday, the service began with the Gospel choir and drums; Cherie Bridges Patrick–a leader in the diocesan-wide Becoming Beloved Community effort–was invited to preach. The service was designed to set the stage for the afternoon session which included lunch. Thirty-two people joined the dialogue.
Rev. Mary Laymon reflected, “I felt very encouraged and uplifted by the energy of the experience.” A participant from another church fired off an email as soon as he got home, “I really enjoyed our time together today. What an uplifting service and delicious meal and fellowship…the energy in the room was infectious! I cannot tell you all how privileged and happy I am to be part of this! Looking forward to our next opportunity to be together.”
Rev. Laymon went on to share lessons learned from the process itself:
“An important learning from this experience is how important it is to persevere despite the resistance and discomfort this process creates. We attempted this very same gathering four months earlier. But that Sunday, no one came. It was not yet time…the kairotic moment when God brings all things together was still being formed. Individual churches were still engaging in important inner dialogue. It was a painful moment, as fear welled up that maybe we couldn’t do this. But fear didn’t get the last word. No! Every congregation persevered in their own process. Leaders pushed through resistance and planned again. Two months later we met for a smaller gathering. And then two months after that, folks from three mostly white churches set aside their usual worship traditions to integrate the most segregated hour of the week and worship with St. Simons’ historically Black congregation.
This is hard work, folks. It takes trying and being disappointed. Risking and feeling vulnerable. Disappointment, fear, and forgiveness. It’s not for the faint of heart. But for the courageous it leads to connection. It leads us home to Love.”