Last evening, I was invited to participate in a discussion hosted by “Hope for the City,” a working group convened by the mayor of my town to develop strategies for developing a more inclusive and unified community. The group was small, racially integrated, and represented a mix of leaders from different sectors of society. And though our conversation was brief and consisted primarily in each of us sharing our personal histories and perceptions, it was genuinely hopeful. Listening to people with such a clear desire to create understanding created a sense that change is possible — not so much in a “top-down” way that relies on programs and institutions — but in a “bottom-up” way that allows people to spend time together and rediscover their common humanity.
The dialogue reminded me of the familiar words from Psalm 133:
How good and pleasant it is
when God’s people live together in unity!
Of course, then I returned home to the evening news, which featured a report about callous remarks directed at the homelands of various immigrant groups by one of our nation’s political leaders. Clearly, unity is “good and pleasant” — but it’s also very hard to come by.
One of the most encouraging things about this “Hope for the City” gathering was the emphasis that was placed on prayer by all the participants. Even though just a few of the group’s members were clergy, there was a mutual realization that the struggle against racism and hopelessness is a deeply spiritual one. And so, one of the key proposals for moving forward was to bring together more small groups of people — just to listen and to pray — so that the circle of understanding and the power of the Spirit can be expanded.
From time to time, I share with the members of my church a statement that I first discovered Steve Sjogren, the founding pastor of Vineyard Community Church in Cincinnati:
Small things done with great love will change the world.
May we value each small step that moves us toward unity, and may we pray in such a way that we become part of the solution, rather than part of the problem.