Juneteenth is an appropriate day for Old Donation Church to annually take stock of what we have learned, done, and are committed to do. This increasingly divided world needs the Church to be leaders in the work of reconciliation. With 385 years of history, we have a spe- cial responsibility to know who we have been, who we are, and who God is calling us to be.
When we each look thoughtfully at our past, we find much for which we are thankful, and other aspects produce regret. Scripture tells us all have sinned. Our Book of Common Prayer calls us to confess things done and left undone. As is true for many organizations and churches, this includes Old Donation’s own troubled connection to slavery and the racism that both preceded it and has proceeded from it. The Gospel requires: “when offering your gift at the al- tar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, then come and offer your gift.” (Matthew 5: 23-24)
God charges us to reconcile with those we have harmed. It is an essential element in repair- ing the damage and breaches created by sin. Reconciliation work is uncomfortable, unpleas- ant, and even painful, but necessary, to be in communion with God and with each other.
Old Donation Episcopal Church is intentionally working to understand and reconcile those challenging parts of our distant and more recent past:
A decade of study, reflection and personal growth led to participation in Sacred Ground Circles (now 65 participants), book studies, and other resources to broaden our understanding of racial injustice and the maltreatment of others. More Circles are planned for this year and future.
Our parish’s historical records confirm our direct history with slavery, including “Rachal” (a person actually enslaved and “owned” by the parish).
After rebuilding in 1916, through the Jim Crow era, and into our contemporary time, there have been a few clear efforts to support racial equality and justice, but those were often met with documented resistance.
Our parish is partnering with Norfolk State University, a Historically Black College and University, to work to repair the breach, including establishment of a scholarship fund in the name of “Rachal” to benefit students at NSU.
We established a permanent Becoming Beloved Community vestry commission to continuously seek, discern and execute ways to further repair the breach. This is not a short-term work, but part of our identity and long-term mission.
The road to reconciliation is NOT a cul-de-sac of shame and guilt, which would get us no- where. But we ARE called by Christ to be leaders in the hard work of building a new reality, becoming a beloved community. We have opportunity to “do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God.” (Micah 6:8) Paraphrasing St. Paul in his letter to the Philippians, not that we have already achieved this goal... but we press on toward the heavenly vision that God in Christ has given us.
While we can and should be thankful for our efforts and others to date, we CANNOT let ourselves be satisfied. We ask God’s forgiveness for the things we have done and left un- done, and make a commitment that we will strive to do better. We pray that we can be am- bassadors of reconciliation in this world which so sorely needs that kind of leadership. It is fitting, therefore, that on this anniversary of Juneteenth, your Clergy and Vestry makes this statement of enduring commitment for reconciliation:
Old Donation will seek out and strive to tell the truth, particularly about ourselves, no matter how painful or inconvenient.
Old Donation will strive to thoughtfully put our history and world in context, honor- ing those who have come before us, while clearly acknowledging when we have gone astray.
Old Donation will seek out ways to positively impact underserved communities, par- ticularly those suffering from the impacts of racism, bigotry, and discrimination.
Old Donation will strive to reconcile our sins of commission and omission.
Old Donation will build partnerships to help us understand and make our efforts
Old Donation will continue to offer education and formation for all members in the
areas of race, history, justice, and reconciliation.
Old Donation will always keep itself as a place where all are welcome regardless of
color, gender, orientation, ethnicity, in an environment of mutual respect.
THIS COMMITMENT WAS AGREED TO BY VESTRY RESOLUTION ON 31 MAY 2022.