“Reconciliation” by Trevor Southey, Fulton County, Georgia
By Donald Allston Fishburne
Each time we have thought the presidential election could not grow any worse, it did. Can it grow worse still on the eve of Election Day? Maybe. Can it improve? Yes, God willing, with Americans’ courage and faithfulness.
All of my family came through time as immigrants in crowded little ships from the British Isles and Europe to the United States. They came to Plymouth in what became Governor Bradford’s Colony, welcomed at first by friendly Native Americans. They came to Charlestown, South Carolina, in a sister ship to the Endeavour, both built in Fishburne Shipyard in Whitby. Some were members of its first Church, St. Philip’s, founded in 1680, where I would be baptized and ordained nearly three centuries later. One ancestor came from London to become rector of nearby St. Michael’s, built in the 1750s. Henry Purcell was the hotheaded rector before, during, and after the War for Independence, meaning that ultimately he threw off the monarchy and the Church of England. He became one of many founding fathers of the Episcopal Church and joined with others to help forge a nation.
I would like to think that our ancestors built a holy nation, but the truth is that much of it was built on the backs of slaves. With my advantage of hindsight and historical perspective I would prefer that my ancestors, as Christians, had done many things differently. The truth is, they did the best they knew how. I imagine that is what they would expect of me. Some of my people were among those who thought they could own other people. The Civil War, brother against brother, came very close to ending our experiment as a democratic republic. To this day we stagger from the battlefields and entanglements of that cruel and bloody era.
Today there is widespread ignorance of, or wanton disregard for, the foundational Constitutional principles upon which our democracy was crafted. Some think the people in power have so corrupted the system that it could fall under its own weight. Add to this the specter of destabilizing cyber warfare and it’s deeply troubling.
I had thought that out of this cauldron a new governmental administration must emerge in less than a year after Inauguration Day. Now I realize we cannot wait till January to start rebuilding relationships of faith, justice, freedom, and hope.
This week can be a time of deep prayer and a time of new beginnings in truth-telling; a new season to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God; a time to remember that God is on the side of the poor, the downtrodden, and the oppressed. The Beatitudes remind us of this.
May we pray for a new generation of shepherds at all levels of government, and in our communities of faith, supported by people with an abiding belief in democracy, courageous faith in the God of love and power, and thanksgiving in our hearts for the liberties we enjoy.
I hope and pray that our children and our children’s children will live in one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
As followers of Jesus we are citizens first of his kingdom. Jesus shows the power of love and humility on the cross. He reigns in glory as the King of Peace. He shows us the power of love and forgiveness, the depths of humility, and the kiss of peace.
The Rev. Donald Allston Fishburne is an Episcopal priest, church consultant, and writer who serves on the staff of St. John’s Church, Tallahassee, and on the founding board of Bethel Empowerment Foundation’s ecumenical Ready4Work program for people leaving incarceration.