It’s that time of year when we are expected to indulge in the depth and breadth of our history. Given the arduous and diverse nature of our history, whether shaped in the United States, or other places of origin, it can be a call beyond remembering. Our history, with its narrative rooted in the Southern United States, or South-Central Los Angeles, or the Southern Hemisphere of the world, invites listening and learning, studying and stirring. Hope embedded in memory has the power to transform history into legacy! Though many times used as a pawn to engender embarrassment, our history can become a source of empowerment in the service of shaping legacy for new generations.
Whether from Alabama or Jamaica, Texas or Nigeria, Tennessee or Belize, our historical narratives at Holman include trails watered by the tears brought about by stony roads and chastening rods. Will this be a history treated only as a branch of knowledge dealing with past events? Whether from Oklahoma, Ghana, North Carolina, South Africa, the Virgin Islands or Panamá, our stories share similar examples to weary years, and coming up the rough side of the mountain. Will this be our continuous, systematic narrative of past events as relating to a particular people and place? Can the aggregate of our unique and diverse past events activate a reservoir of ideas and opportunities capable of shaping the course of a common future? As I continue my appreciative inquiry into our multi-faceted and multi-dimensional congregation, I often wonder how the rich diversity of our histories can continue to activate a deep commitment to realizing legacies of mutuality?
How will the history of Holman continue to become a legacy for future generations? Are we allowing the history of Holman to shape us into a legacy setting the course of the future worth living and fighting for? Though painful, our history is not just for studying, nor for repeating, but a reminder of our capability in the present. Though difficult to grasp, our history is not just for listening, nor singing, but a reminder of the possibility in the future. While history can sometimes trick us into preservation, legacy can set us free for the construction of a just and fair society. Listening to, learning from, and leveraging history in the service of legacy, is a sacred task for those who are willing to face the rising sun of a new day begun. Informed by divine imagination of a different world, this sacred task birthed songs of freedom from places near and far.
One such song is “Plenty Good Room.” History can inform legacy when we listen to, and sing about “plenty good room” as an invitation into the ongoing struggle for inclusivity and equality? Whether through shaping and supporting just and comprehensive immigration reform or fair wages, “plenty good room” as legacy can move us beyond “butlers” in the master’s house, and make us builders of a house that will accommodate the beloved community. As a theological statement, “plenty good room” is a melodious and contagious call from our ancestors to transform our history with God into a legacy with a God of inclusivity and equality. Legacy transforms songs of freedom into songs for freedom!
When faced with the dichotomy of who to let in, and how to let them in, and the privilege of having been let in, “plenty good room” provides us with the history of an iron-shaped faith that can facilitate synergy between a God of inclusivity and equality, and our fears and anxiety about the presence of the other. The power of history is unleashed when it shapes a legacy that navigates us towards a destiny that continues to reflect the boldness and integrity of our ancestors.
Whether within or beyond these borders, lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met thee, keep us forever in the path of leveraging our arduous and grievous history for contagious and bodacious legacy. May we daily strive to be and become living legacies full of the faith that the dark past has taught us. Filled with the hope that the present has brought us, let us march on to victory for all.
Rev. Kelvin Sauls