Synopsis of Day 2
We read and discussed Isaiah 6 and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Trumpet of Conscience (1967) within the context of the theme of vocation to crisis. Through these texts we reflected on the political situations of ancient Israel and 1960’s America and connections to our own work. Toward the end of our discussion, we had the pleasure of meeting Reverend Doctor Paul Elliot, our gracious host and the rector of St. Michael’s Episcopal Church. Paul moved to Georgia with his wife, Beverly, from Queensland, Australia six years ago and obtained his PhD in religion and psychology from Emory University. He shared with us his integration of experience with pastoral psychotherapy, fractal theory, and community building, as they relate to his current work.
As the temperature rose to a balmy 60 degrees, we loaded into our three mini vans and departed for a church that stands as a shining monument of America’s fight toward justice, love, and equality. At 11:00a.m., we entered the grand doorways of the Ebenezer Baptist Church in downtown Atlanta, where Union Theological Seminary alumnus, Reverend Raphael Warnock, delivered a sermon entitled, “Never Forgetting Your First Love.” His message emphasized following the big “G” God versus the small “g” gods. He described the big “G” God as a God who is zealous for us. Zealous, so that we have lives that are full, have love, kindness, and liberation from the small gods that often enslave us. The small “g” gods are the things that we obsess upon: money, power, hatred, resentment, and pride. Following the sermon, Reverend Warnock took the time to speak with our group and answer our questions regarding his impressions of the impact of Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath.
At this point in the day, the group segmented and pursued a few different experiences.
A small group joined the Reverend touring the original Ebenezer Baptist Church where both Dr. Martin Luther King’s father and maternal grandfather were pastors.
Some students visited the Visitor Center, which documents Dr. King’s work chronologically, including video footage, audio tapes of his speeches, and artifacts from throughout his life. The exhibits focus on some of the most important aspects of Dr. King’s work, such as his fight to secure voting rights, his struggles with desegregation, his campaign to serve the poor, and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference that he founded. Students found that the visit was challenging to process due to the powerful nature of the content.
A handful of students accepted Reverend Warnock’s invitation to enjoy soul food at Paschal’s, an Atlanta restaurant that has been in existence for over 58 years. The hotel has historical importance, as part of the civil rights movement when children were arrested and jailed for protesting. Parents frequently waited for their children, were fed, advised, and supported at Paschal’s. The students thoroughly enjoyed the meal and were hugely grateful that the Reverend took time to talk with them more about his experience and perspective on the world.
Others ate lunch at restaurants in downtown Atlanta or skipped lunch for the opportunity to attend a church service at the Open Door Center, an intentional community of street people. The congregation included some of the people who live at the shelter, some homeless people who attend services from the streets, and other local community members. The sermon emphasized nurturing and maintaining connections with people, particularly loved ones and extended family members. Furthermore, students were struck by the emphasis on radical social change and the call for increased interconnectedness.
In addition, many of the students were thrilled to learn that the Steelers won the AFC Wildcard playoff game.
Vans returned to St. Michael’s Episcopal Church later in the evening and group members sipped wine with Paul and his wife, Bev before enjoying a meal of homemade chili, cornbread, salad, and cupcakes.
Group members spent the remainder of the night cleaning up, playing games, resting, talking, journaling, showering, and preparing for bed.
Yet another incredible day.