Tuesday, June 2, 2009


"We need to stop before we move on--to mourn, to lament. We need to step back and just be the children of God. To me, that is prevention, intervention, and post-vention."

--Marcia Owen, speaking on the panel "Lament: Seeing, Naming, and Feeling the Brokenness," 6/2/09

Learning to Stay and See

Yesterday we practiced the discipline of lament. We took deep breaths, several steps back, and realized together that reconciliation isn’t something we can “do,” measure, and check off our lists. It is a journey that requires personal transformation and growth.

American culture peculiarly hides its pain—we hide sorrow, loneliness, poverty, illness, disability, the elderly. As Jeremiah says, we deal lightly with the wounds of our people. We somehow delude ourselves into thinking that we can only be effective ministers and care-givers if we wear the sheen of success, if we are in a position of power or competency.

Emmanuel Katongole reminded us that our American ways of hiding pain and erecting a façade of self-confidence is devastating to the process of reconciliation. In fact, he pointedly stated, “There can be no reconciliation without lament.”

Sometimes, the journey of reconciliation means we truly see, and we don’t look away from the world’s pain. We stay with the pain, we dwell there for a while, and like Rachel weeping for her children, we refuse to be consoled.

Some of us wept together yesterday. We wept for our own broken bodies and hearts, for our broken families and neighborhoods, for unfathomable injustice. And we sat with the pain, even as the silence stretched long.

Hear Our Prayer: Lamenting Together

The desire to fix things falls on hard times in the ministry of reconciliation. Neighborhoods are not problems to be solved. Communities of people are not work projects. This is so because reconciliation assumes equality. Two individuals, two communities, two cultural groups (or three, four, or more) cannot experience reconciliation until the problems are not with him, her, it, or them. Brokenness is not one-sided; neither is reconciliation.

Paul describes the ministry of reconciliation not as one that was given to him in particular, but rather, “to us.” “And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation,” he writes. Reconciliation comes alive and, of course, bears its fruit in relationship—in relationship with God, and with others, especially those who are unlike us.

It is also sustained in relationship. Peace is not a destination, but rather a state of being that must be cultivated, maintained, and—very often—restored. The glimpses of reconciliation witnessed to at this institute bear witness to the fact that peace is organic and living. But like all things living on earth, it is also frail.

Emmanuel Katongole’s morning meditation cast light on a discipline that fuels reconciliation: lament. For him, it is a means “of learning how to narrate what is going on, a way to move beyond clichés.” The fact that brokenness precedes reconciliation means that the church will always need to cultivate lamentation. And it will always need to do so together.


"There is no journey into hope without lament."

--Emmanuel Katongole, during his address "Lament: Seeing, Naming, and Feeling the Brokenness," 6/2/09


"Racialized language steals our imagination… When we look out on our congregations we only see people who look like us. Our imaginations have been stolen because we don’t see that as a problem."

--Bill Lamar, speaking on the panel "Lament: Seeing, Naming, and Feeling the Brokenness," 6/2/09