The Diocese of Atlanta is proud to be home to a new resource for the worldwide Episcopal Church. Presiding Bishop The Most Rev. Michael Curry was on hand for the Oct. 11 ribbon cutting for the new Absalom Jones Center for Racial Healing.
Located at the Atlanta University Center among Morehouse, Spelman and Clark Atlanta campuses on the Westside of Atlanta, the center will provide parishes and dioceses around the world with the support to address racism head-on through racial reconciliation and healing. The resource and training center is housed in what was known as the historic Absalom Jones Episcopal Center and Chapel building. The creation of the Center aligns with The Episcopal Church and our Diocese’s commitment to reach across the borders and boundaries that divide the human family of God.
“We shall either learn to live together as brothers and sisters, or we will perish together as fools. The choice is ours, chaos or community,” said Presiding Bishop Curry echoing the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. “This center really does seek to address the polarities and divisions occasioned by our racial history, but also the polarities and divisions that are either directly or indirectly related to that.”
“I thank you and your Bishop together for what you are doing here in Atlanta that is typified by this Center,” Curry said. “I thank God for that leadership because we need it. Not only in our church but we need it in our country.”
Dr. Catherine Meeks is the founding executive director of the Center and chair of the former Diocese of Atlanta’s Beloved Community: Commission for Dismantling Racism. The Center will replace and expand upon the work of the Commission within the Diocese of Atlanta. It will provide training and help bring energy and enthusiasm to the work of racial reconciliation.
She hopes that people from parishes across the country and world will visit the center to begin the work of learning how to create brave spaces in their own communities. The idea is to foster environments where people can feel comfortable talking about their experiences with race – both good and bad. Meeks says that it is only through conversations and learning about our history and acknowledging our own prejudices that we can discern and decide how we want to shape our present and future together.
The Center will suggest book studies, film screenings, and planning pilgrimages to sites that are historically significant within the context of racial reconciliation. Among the first events to take place at the Center will be a gathering of people from Southeastern dioceses in January. Following that, representatives from all of the Church’s 99 dioceses will be invited to Atlanta in the spring.
At the ribbon cutting ceremony our bishop, The. Rt. Rev. Rob Wright, spoke frankly about the importance of addressing racism as Christians and Episcopalians.
“The Episcopal Church lent the institution of slavery its support, justification, and after slavery was abolished, continued to support segregation and discrimination. These are the facts,” he said. “In the words of Rabbi Heschel, however, we gather here to say some are guilty, but all are responsible. So, we repent of our complicity in systems of slavery and repression, and to commit ourselves to opposing the sin of racism in our personal and public lives, and to strive for the ongoing creation of the Beloved Community.”
That community is a vision Dr. King spoke about in which racism and all forms of discrimination, bigotry, and prejudice will be replaced by an all-inclusive spirit of sisterhood and brotherhood. As Episcopalians, we can undertake this work through the lens of living into our baptismal promise. Also on hand for the celebration was Bishop Victor Atta-Baffoe, Bishop of Cape Coast in the Anglican Diocese of Cape Coast.
To read more about work being undertaken at the Absalom Jones Center for Racial Healing and across the Diocese of Atlanta, pre-order your 2017-2018 edition of Pathways magazine today. Issues will be delivered in late-November.