Response – Ability

Oh Shenandoah! Photo by Sheila Garrett

Sheila Garrett deconstructed the word responsiblity as part of her following note. Have you ever thought of this word in this way? It opens up possibilities for action in ways that you may not have thought of… both as individuals and as Faith groups.
Sheila is walking from Vermont to Georgia. You can follow her diary on PutneyFriendsMeeting.org; Sheila’s walk to Georgia.
Part of what I struggle with in understanding and explaining my ministry is the universality and inclusivity of it.  One thing became clear in the past few days.  The Doctrine of Discovery, the Papal edicts of the 1400s justifying the subjugation and annihilation of indigenous peoples, was the EXACT same system, the same definition of Christianity that justified/called for slavery of African people.  John Woolman’s writings make that very clear. The exploitation of natural resources and of other species is also justified the same way.  It really is all connected.
When people ask ‘why are you walking?’ I say ‘I’m walking with a concern for the earth and all it’s beings, including you.’  In saying that, I intend to honor John Woolman’s approach.  Woolman was very intentional in making all those connections, perhaps especially the inclusive aspect of concern for the slaveholder as well as the slave.  I think when I can, I need to be able to articulate clearly and concisely what I mean by this. It is what Woolman and others say about ‘taking away the occasion for war.’ It is that BLACK LIVES MATTER as much as any lives matter, more than others right now, because the movement (Black Lives Matter) needs support and because they have been so intentionally and consistently disregarded. This is not to say that other lives don’t matter, too. When I met with the working party on Racism at Stony Brook in Baltimore, people were saying they thought the message should be BLACK LIVES MATTER, TOO.  I think it’s good to hold the line on BLACK LIVES MATTER as a definitive statement of the need for redress. It means for me that no matter how simply I live I will always be privileged and with that privilege comes responsibility, the ABILITY to respond effectively to injustice.  I carry that response ability and I need to use it as best I can.  I need to find ways to effectively express it and live into it so it can resonate with each person I meet.  For me prayer and direct connection to the divine are completely entwined with this.  I cannot do this alone. For some, it is obvious and easy to discuss. For others, ‘God talk’ shuts them down immediately.  Same with talk of social justice. And there are levels that work and don’t work for each of us. I pray for the ability to be sensitive to each person’s needs.  I try to meet each person where she/he is and engage meaningfully to whatever extent possible.
Blessings, Sheila
To read more about Sheila go to Fellowship of Reconciliation 

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