This article by Diane Pollard, Member of the Reparations Committee and Chair of the 2015 Social Justice and United States Policy Committee of the General Convention, appeared recently in the Episcopal New Yorker in preparation for our 2017 Diocesan Convention.
The book of Lamentations is one of the shorter books of our Old Testament.
The book consists of five separate poems. In the first (chapter 1), the city sits as a desolate weeping widow overcome with miseries. In Chapter 2 these miseries are described in connection with national sins and acts of God. Chapter 3 speaks of hope for the people of God: the chastisement would only be for their good; a better day would dawn for them. Chapter 4 laments the ruin and desolation of the city and temple, but traces it to the people’s sins. Chapter 5 is a prayer that Zion’s reproach may be taken away in the repentance and recovery of the people. The five chapters can be seen as the five truths.
At the 241st Diocesan Convention delegates will be asked to approve a resolution presented by the Reparations Committee of the Diocese of New York. This resolution titled “A Call to the Diocese to Commit to a Year of Lamentations” is presented as the next opportunity for our diocese to continue the journey that we started in 2006 when Bishop Mark S. Sisk formed the Reparations Committee of the diocese. Many congregations and other organizations in our diocese have participated in the hard work of beginning to discern their histories; some have engaged in the reading of The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander. Other groups have joined in diocesan pilgrimages to areas that are examples of slavery and mass incarceration.
The resolution presented at this year’s Convention will ask that we challenge our diocese to respond to a call to commit to a year of Lamentations and to commit to active engagement in a Year of Lamentations beginning January 1, 2018. Participation will take the form of an ongoing study of our Diocese and its history of involvement in slavery and its old and new incarnations. We hope that all of us will find ourselves lamenting previous actions.
Lamentation takes time, energy and deep soul searching. The Reparations Committee will sponsor a series of activities in each region of our diocese and invites individuals and groups to join in participating. These events are intended to awaken our hearts and minds; we hope that the participation in this year of lamentations will prepare us for the next step of Becoming Beloved Community: The Episcopal Church’s Long term Commitment to Racial Healing Reconciliation and Justice.
The schedule for our 2018 opportunities, as well as representatives of the Reparations Committee will be available to discuss both the resolution and the opportunities) available to your churches and organizations as we embark on our Year of Lamentations.
Diane B. Pollard, Member
Reparations Committee of the Diocese of New York
Chair of the 2015 Social Justice and United States Policy Committee of the General Convention.