Service of Repentance for the Sins of Slavery

The Presiding Bishop preaching the Homily

The Presiding Bishop preaching the Homily

This morning, I attended the Episcopal Church’s Service of Repentance for the Sins of Slavery at the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas.  The choir of Trinity Church in Swarthmore was invited to sing as part of the service’s prelude.  On Friday, participants engaged in a number of presentations regarding the Episcopal Church’s role in supporting slavery.  Even though I couldn’t attend then, today was still a powerful service.  The liturgy was a strong call

“to commit ourselves to opposing the sin of racism in personal and public life, and to create communities of liberation and justice.”

The service focused not only on the institution of slavery, but on how everyday churchgoers have fallen and still do fall prey to the sins of racism, subjugation, neglect, complicity, and arrogance.  Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori’s sermon was informative and inspirational.  She called for the United States to unlearn some of the “myths that underlie our nation’s history” and to “understand the ways in which those myths have kept many in bondage, and confess the ways in which The Episcopal Church has been partner to those myths.”  I think it is vital for us to realize that the United States, what many consider at least nominally a Christian nation, has often strayed far from the teachings of Jesus.  We must recognize that this country was built on two genocides that our “history” seems to say are acceptable or even noble.

It was good to see some familiar faces at the service, including the Diocese of Los Angeles’ Bishop Talton and Massachusetts State Representative Byron Rushing (whom I last saw opening a time capsule in Roxbury).  Representative Rushing has done some great work, and I agree with him that

“We need to talk about slavery into the future as it is alive today. We still need to have an abolitionist’s movement because we have abolished slavery as an economy of chattel but we have not abolished slavery in our culture”

And of course, one of my favorite parts was trying to clap and keep time with the liveliest, most awesome gospel choir I have ever seen (and watching some of the older bishops try to do the same).