“I am a recovering racist!” The Reverend Laura Early said to us during our meeting with Bishop Hope Morgan Ward. Her confession caught my attention in the middle of serious church business. She continued, “Growing up and living most of my life where people were defined by color and outward appearance shaped many of my formative years. I serve a multi-cultural congregation, who has formed me in transformational ways . . . to see difference as celebration. Awareness leads to recovery; denial leads to relapse. I will always be a recovering racist.”
When Bishop Ward came to preach at our church, she asked me how it was to live in a parsonage. I replied to her, “I live in a very nice good parsonage inside a gated community.” She made a comment on living in a gated community. When she served as a resident bishop in Jackson, Mississippi, the community in which the episcopal residence was located discussed becoming a gated community. She and her husband were the only ones to vote against the gate, which would be a strong sign of exclusion. Her passion and zeal to reach out across differences humbled me and left me speechless. I do live in a very comfortable parsonage. I am complacent. I feel secure and safe inside this gate. But, I must confess that I am a recovering racist.
During a Bible study at my church, I asked the elderly sisters and brothers what their prayer concerns were in 2015. Some of them wished to have a better health for themselves and for their families. Some of them wanted to see family members have a good job. One of our wonderful Christians, Tommie said, “I want to see this racial hatred stopped in our country.” Her comment spoke to my heart on that day. I am a recovering racist.
We have a food pantry ministry every other Wednesday. Almost 200 families come and get a box of food from us. We give, and they receive. Most of them are black. Around twenty percent are white. The remainder are Hispanics. I have been serving this church for seven years, but I know little of them. I must confess I have not tried to know them personally. I have not listened to their stories. I have not prayed for them. I have been more concerned about raising money for the food pantry and getting volunteers than trying to know them as a person. I am a recovering racist!
Lord, have mercy on me!
Christ have mercy on me!