Emanuel AME Church

and the Paschal Mystery

by Chris Hardman 

I am still thinking about Charleston, because a miraculous thing is happening there. A horrific event has become a sign of God's power and presence. On the news the other night I saw a big sign that read: "We Shall Rise." I think Charleston has, or, rather, is rising. Perhaps, we are all rising because God's love has been made manifest in the midst of hate. Death has been defeated. A new Spirit of unity is arising. That is what we call the Paschal Mystery!

Charleston and Emanuel AME Church have become signs of hope in an otherwise distressing world. Racism and sexism are still pervasive. Political stalemate still dominates our Congress. Violence still reigns in the lives of many throughout the world. And yet, God is speaking loudly in Charleston, bringing people to a new awareness of our interconnectedness. Christian theologians have been writing about this for years. But it takes real events to help us see that we really are being led into a new and greater consciousness together.

It reminds me of one of Albert Einstein insightful quotes: "We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them." Most of our problems originate in our radical self-centeredness or our more dangerous "group" self-centeredness. Everything is about what I want, or what my small group wants. We are all into what is best for me. There is very little talk about what is best for "everyone and everything". Albert Einstein clarifies our dilemma when he writes:

     "a human being is part of a whole, called by us -universe-, a part limited in time and space. He       experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest. . . . a           kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is kind of a prison for us, restricting       us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest us. Our task must be to         free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living               creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty."

 That experience of "freeing ourselves" from our delusional prison seems to be happening in Charleston right now. I mean the South Carolina Congress is actually going to talk about taking the Confederate battle flag down from their Capitol grounds and Alabama has already removed their flags. Being from the South and knowing how things have been for so long, I never thought that would happen. IT MUST BE THE APOCALYPSE!

Perhaps it is God leading us in a new Exodus, empowering us to let go of an old life and to take hold of a new and greater life. Maybe God's love is finally giving some of us the courage to move out of our delusional prison and into a greater more inclusive consciousness. If that is the case then the church certainly needs to do all it can to support those persons in their journey. 
That is what I hope will happen with our new Center for Trinitarian Spirituality initiative that we plan to begin this fall. We want to support the desire of many to move into a greater consciousness of God's love at work in our world, bringing all this glorious diversity into a stronger unity. For it is the very love of God that frees us of from our delusional prison and brings us into the real world of interconnectedness-the Kingdom of God.