by Tammie Lesesne
(transcript of Tammie's testimony shared during Worship at Myers Park Baptist on May 28, 2017)
This pilgrimage was the culmination of tough, reflective conversation in our series called Awakening to Racial Injustice. It would have been a potent culmination if just MPBC members took this pilgrimage.
It was potent to experience the chaotic, terrifying sounds of a simulated lunch counter sit-in at the National Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta.
It was potent to walk across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, remembering the horrific billy clubs and attack dogs that met the marchers who literally put their lives on the line.
It was beyond potent to be in the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham where 4 innocent girls were hate-bombed to death, and to hear an eyewitness account of the moment Dr. King learned of this act of terrorism. We linked arms in the sanctuary and sang We Shall Overcome, and had fulsome prayer in Kelly Ingram Park, where children who marched were arrested by the hundreds!
It was overwhelmingly potent to be at the Lorraine in Memphis where Dr King took his last breath.
But here is the most potent and extraordinary thing: being with the beautiful, open, welcoming, reconciling souls from Mayfield Memorial. Journeying with those who are now our friends gave me a seismic jolt. We marched, ate, and drove interminable miles together. We wept, raged, went silent, then sang and prayed together. And we talked. And talked! We went down into the detritus together.
How little have I stood next to, and listened deeply to, those who carry both fresh and generational scars of racial indignities and inequities and violence, whose lives are permeated and shaped by that reality. One new friend, I learned, has a master's degree in organizational development. Her experience in corporate America was so demeaning that she could not endure there, and had to find a completely different way to work. And that doesn't even tell the bigger story of her family's life.
After traveling with our brothers and sisters from Mayfield and experiencing this pilgrimage through their eyes, I believe they would have a different title. Not Awakening. They are excruciatingly woke. We at Myers Park are the ones trying to get woke. I can't even presume to offer a title they might use. And here's what I'm reflecting on now: It was literally and figuratively in the sanctuary of black churches where traumatized, victimized people grew the civil rights movement. And it was in a small handful of white churches and synagogues that the responsibility for creating a more just America began to be shouldered.
So, how do WE go forward with greater consciousness and commitment, at this timely moment when our community is trying to face the lack of opportunity for our most disadvantaged souls? That's for all of us to determine. Will we work for transformation, within ourselves and in our community?
This work of conjoined religious groups, the true Beloved Community, is in my mind and heart. Can we be inspired by the prophet Amos, quoted ringingly by Dr. King: let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.
Pilgrims, please stand. We are members at Myers Park and Mayfield, along with Pentecostal, Bahai, Quaker and Jew. We are all seeds. Water these seeds, so we can grow in redemptive love and action.
The Awakening Series seeks to engage the intersections of culture and faith, particularly around areas of injustice and moral responsibility. Through faith formation opportunities that address issues of our daily lives, we are working to create shalom (wholeness, equity, justice, and peace) for all.