I don’t know how I’ve missed this in the past. Trinity Institute is an annual theological conference organized by Trinity Church Wall Street. In addition to offering the conference onsite at Trinity Church, they broadcast it to hundreds of partner sites. I remember hearing about last year’s conference, Creating Common Good, but I wasn’t able to attend in NY, and I didn’t take time to get to a partner site. That was the 44th conference, so this has been around for a long time.
Trinity Institute 2016 was titled Listen for a Change: Sacred Conversations for Racial Justice. My congregation made a last minute decision to be a partner site, thanks to an invitation from our diocesan Dismantling Racism Commission. We were late to the table in terms of planning. And it was hard to imagine what it would feel like to sit in our church library and watch a screen for two and a half days. As a result, we had a hard time explaining the event and getting the word out. Then, sadly, Trinity had technical problems with the broadcast on Thursday night (according to Twitter we weren’t the only site with difficulties), so most of the nine people who gathered at our site did not hear the conversation and did not come back on Friday. By Friday, the glitches were fixed and everything worked fine.
But now I know. This is a great conference. And technical difficulties aside, sharing the conversation broadly in many places really works. It was like being a fly on the wall, sitting in the comfort of my own church, without the expense of flights and hotels, while faithful, brilliant people talk about important issues of the day. Next year, regardless of the topic, I’ll invest some continuing ed money and sign us up again. This is well worth the time.
Bishop Curry’s sermon Thursday night is available here. The gospel lesson was the story from Matthew 8 about Jesus healing the centurion’s slave. The live video feed kept pausing and restarting in different places, so as we watched we tried to imagine what he was preaching. I predicted that he was encouraging us to bring our sick society before Jesus and ask Jesus to heal us. Close, but not quite. I listened to the sermon fully on Friday and got to make sense of it. It was, in part, a meditation on the rule of life Dr. King gave to civil rights activists in Birmingham in 1963, which began, “As you prepare to march, meditate on the life and teachings of Jesus.” Bishop Curry said Jesus came to create a world where Roman and Jew, Anglo and Latino, Black and White, where the whole human family would not destroy each other but would live in peace. Being part of that movement will change the world. The transforming power of love, “the creative energy of God translated into life,” will heal us.
After Eucharist, Michelle Norris spoke. (I don’t think that video is available yet – worth watching when it is). She talked about her family’s experience of race. She talked about being one of the only people of color in a large newsroom and trying to avoid the topic of race in her early days in journalism. Then she talked about starting The Race Card Project as an experiment in listening to America’s conversation about race. You may have heard her share this project on NPR – an invitation to express your thoughts or experience of race in one sentence of six words. Most submissions come from white Americans. She read several aloud. Since she does not allow links to her website or the sharing of info from her website, I won’t publish here, but look it up – very interesting. These six word statements are intense and powerful. They help us hear.
I’ll share reflections from speakers on Friday and Saturday in another post. But after hearing them, I realized that Bishop Curry and Michelle Norris were scheduled on Thursday night for a reason. This conference is an invitation to listen, in the context of worship and prayer, so the wounds we have inflicted and absorbed from one another can be healed. We need to listen in New York. And we need to listen in Columbus, Georgia and everywhere in between. Though Bishop Curry preached a different sermon, we do need to bring our sick society before Jesus so that we may be healed. I’m grateful to Trinity Church for creating this conversation and allowing so many to listen in.
Photo of Trinity Church by Wanderer Woman from southtown in dixie, usa (Flickr) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons