Building the Beloved Community

September 2020

by Catherine Maresca

Friends, the heat of the summer is passing and we have begun the hard work of the fall as we open our atriums, classrooms and courses for the new year, virtually and in-person. Will we still be willing to continue with the hard work against the racism of our society and churches as they impact in various ways the materials and culture of our atria? This is a long work and we must not turn away from it.Inspiration helps. In particular, the deaths of John Lewis and Ruth Bader Ginsberg put before us two models of tireless work on behalf of civil rights for all, while living in friendship with those who did not agree with them. The Montessori and CGS communities are also known for thier tireless work on behalf of children. I am confident there are models among us from whom we can learn that will lead us in the way of nonviolent justice and hope with grace and courtesy. We are planning to dedicate an email once a month to offer a reflection, a story, or a lesson learned about racism or anti-racism to the community of catechists. We are hoping these will come from you. Self-reflection is a critical part of anti-racist work. Take a look back in your own history with racism, children of color, or work for racial justice in our churches, and consider sharing this in one of the months ahead to help us all maintain our commitment to Building the Beloved Community in our atria, churches, and cities. Here’s one of my own stories: 

I was painting my first Good Shepherd. Sitting across from me was Pam, a young Black woman who had lived with our family for about 10 years. Pam is deaf, and had not begun to learn English or American Sign Language until she was 13, so her vocabulary was quite limited. But she knew Jesus, and was watching me carefully as I began to consider skin color for my figure of Jesus. This moment brought into stark relief how much a material communicates. There were no words to accompany the visual image. I could paint the traditional white Jesus, but I could not have said, “We don’t know exactly what his skin color was. He was probably darker than the Northern European shown in most churches, but just because he looks white doesn’t mean he doesn’t love you too.” I had to rely on the paint to say all I had to say about the color, and the implications of the color, of Jesus. I slowly mixed my paints to the hue of Pam’s own skin, and began to apply it to my shepherd. Neither of us spoke, or signed, about this. She was satisfied, and I had learned the power of the images we put before children and families in the atrium.

Please send your story of about 500 words to cct@cctheo.org to share in the coming months.

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