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Contemplative Conversations on Race

“You are a light. You are the light. Never let anyone—any person or any force—dampen, dim or diminish your light. Study the path of others to make your way easier and more abundant. Lean toward the whispers of your own heart, discover the universal truth, and follow its dictates.” – John Lewis

Congressman John Lewis died on July 17, 2020, leaving a legacy of love, truth, and power. A believer in the transformative work of listening to his own heart and the hearts of others, Lewis throughout his life heard an inner voice telling him to love, care for, and raise the possibilities for all. It’s in that spirit that Shalem has embarked on holding “Contemplative Conversations on Race” and now offers a retreat on the same topic.

After holding three two-hour sessions on contemplation and race, we now offer a retreat to have an opportunity in a longer session to continue to open ourselves to this deep and holy conversation. In the midst of a pandemic, in the midst of racial protests surrounding the brutal death of George Floyd and others, the Holy One is with us. In this double pandemic of the virus and greater exposure of racism, the Holy One is with us no matter what trials, conflicts, or difficulties occur. Sometimes we hear the Holy as a still small voice. Sometimes we hear the Holy as a still small voice. Sometimes we experience gentle nudges. Sometimes we’re jolted in ways we couldn’t imagine, challenging us to seek the Divine way, to listen, to become more aware of our own hearts, to be nurtured in discernment, and to understand and move to do the work that is ours to do.

The Divine is beckoning us to a better way of life, to love one another, to serve one another, and to hope and work for the best for one another. This “one-anothering” is best served when we listen to the Divine or to each other from the heart. In these contemplative conversations, we invite listening to the Holy One, to ourselves, and to each other in a safe, respectful sanctuary of hope, healing and transformation. This sanctuary is not an external place but an internal dwelling, as the Holy One resides in our hearts. We can grow as we listen to our hearts. From this heart sanctuary, we will hear how we can cooperate and work alongside the Spirit to build a better world, to love and to serve one another.

This can be difficult work because we all have become so accustomed to hearing what other people think, other voices, but not what our hearts and theirs are speaking. So in this retreat we will come apart and listen. We will reflect on deep questions of the heart. We are called to be witnesses, witnesses of the Holy One’s heart. A witness has to observe, to listen, to be prepared to speak about what we know to be true. How can we know the truth if we don’t stop to reflect on what’s happening within us and within the world? And, most importantly, if we don’t stop to reflect on what the Holy One is saying about what that truth is? We can come from our place of subjective analysis, our own mental gymnastics, our news feed perspectives, but what about the Holy One? We seek in this retreat to sit with the ponderings of God’s own heart and of our own.

Sr. Simone Campbell, founder of the Nuns on the Bus, remarked recently that “contemplation is subversive.” We might wonder about that when we think of contemplation as being a quiet way, a solitary way. But contemplation has us listening to the Divine whose ways are far above our ways, a mystery to us, who calls us to love when it is difficult, to get into “good trouble” (in the words of Congressman Lewis). Listening to the Divine would have us seek out those who are marginalized, oppressed and hurting, and lift our voices and act in concrete ways to redress wrongs.

Yes, these are challenging and difficult times. And they are times that hold promise for transformation, hope, and justice. Come join us. This intimacy with the Divine needs to be nourished and supported in order for us to speak and act in the world on behalf of the Holy One. To make manifest the love, truth and power of the Divine.

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Lisa F Rawlings
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Lisa F Rawlings

Thank you for sharing this. I did not participate in the earlier two hour sessions, but I am eager to learn more. I am heartened to hear about this and want to learn more. Thank you and Rev. Raymont Anderson, Center for Spiritual Living-Greater Baltimore.