AdventWord 2019: 10. Grace
In August 2017, a group of young people and their leaders gathered in Shrine Mont, Virginia…
Shrine Mont is the spiritual heart of the Virginia Diocese – a “thin place”, a beautiful place of retreat, and the perfect location to conclude a two-year journey traveling as Triangle of Hope pilgrims.
The Triangle of Hope is a child of the Anglican Communion – an international partnership (what we call a covenantal community) between three very different dioceses: Virginia (U.S.), Liverpool (U.K.) and Kumasi (Ghana). Its focus is racial reconciliation, using the principles of Sankofa, a Twi (Akan) word meaning “return and seek out, then carry forward”.
Our desire is that we might learn from and be transformed by the horrors of history – particularly the shameful history which connects our three dioceses: the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. We want to remember, but we also want to be energized and equipped to work against those same horrors in the present day.
Youth pilgrimages are foundational to the Triangle of Hope. At the end of two years of following Christ into shared history, deeper into ourselves and out into the world (often in ways unimaginable at the start), the young people are commissioned, having been equipped to carry forward in the name of Christ a message of reconciling and healing love in the world.
But back to Shrine Mont: to an outside space not far from the Shrine. The day had been an emotional one as friendships, refined in the fire of God’s love, now formed a circle around a “last night” campfire. It was a night marked by echoes of inhumanity – approximately 100km away in Charlottesville was another gathering, not of pilgrims, but protestors- white supremacists and far-right activists – reminding us powerfully that this pilgrimage, this way of love, is needed today in our world more than ever before.
In Shrine Mont we watch the flames and silence descends, then, without prompting or rehearsal, “Amazing Grace” begins to resound, sung simply, respectfully, tearfully.
Saint Theresa of Avila said, “In a state of grace, the soul is like a well of limpid water, from which flow only streams of clearest crystal.”
Ours was indeed a libation of grace-filled tears; an offering to God who is love and whose way is love. We wept as we asked that God might live in us, work through us, move in the hearts and minds of those who walk the way of hate and turn them around.
Sankofa is a rich and profound concept. Sankofa does not mean carrying forward those things that destroy and divide us, but those things, perhaps long forgotten, which heal and restore and bring life. Sankofa is the humble recognition that we are on a journey; that we are not perfect, and that with God all things are possible. All this is grace. God’s grace at work in and through us, leading us to love and repentance; the transformation of our souls and hope for the world.
Imagine that you too are there this Advent, as we wait and walk and watch; as flames flicker and tears fall. Return, seek out, and carry forward that which the Lord has done for you; that which can restore hope and bring life and healing again.
Through many dangers, toils and snares I have already come:
‘tis grace has brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.