Racial Reconciliation and Generational Healing: Integrated Christian Healing Practices in ECCT

A reflection from the Rev. Dr. Linda Spiers

What would make people say “yes” to an ECCT commitment that has taken one and a half years of intensive work that often felt like a fulltime job? I believe that folks, with the help of God, were encouraged to offer their gifts for the Bishop Transition Committee (BTC) in many and varied ways.

Witness Stones at St. Pauls, Wallingford

Adapted from the Sermon at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Wallingford, CT

By Amy Foster

“There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28

On a sunny Sunday in June that serendipitously fell on Juneteenth, a day we had slated to honor the legacy of two former enslaved people in our own church by installing two Witness Stones, our lectionary felt like a gift from the heavens. As always, there were moments throughout the service in which we were reminded of our Christian mission to love others as ourselves, but Paul’s Letter to the Galatians seemed penned almost particularly for the day at hand. In it, Paul argues that we need to break down barriers and distinctions, recognizing, as he says in chapter 6, verse 2 of the letter that God shows no partiality. (Paul wrote the letter to the Galatians because some of them were listening to a group that was trying to limit and exclude certain types of people from the Christian movement in the first century.) Throughout the writing, Paul is adamant that because we are all equal in the eyes of God, we need to treat each other that way as well. Paul argues for inclusivity and love of neighbor (every neighbor!)—in this letter he reiterates Jesus’ Great Commandment to love our neighbor as ourselves.

This emphasis on inclusivity is behind much of the work of the Resolution 7 Task Force here at St. Paul’s. This task force was put together to carry out the ECCT resolution in 2020 that stated, among other things, that each parish would “take steps to research and document historic complicity in racism in their parish and communities.” In doing our research, with the help of both the Wallingford Historic Preservation Trust and the Witness Stones Project, our goal has been to be more inclusive in understanding a fuller picture of our history as a parish.

We have learned through our work that there were at the very least about a dozen people enslaved by members of our parish, including by one of our rectors. We are taking steps to lift up the lives and labors of those enslaved people, to include them as an important part of the story of our community.

When we first started our research, Grace and Esau, whom we honor today, were our first discoveries because, in fact, they are actually named in the published St. Paul’s history that has been in use for decades! Grace and Esau were enslaved by Titus and Mary Brockett who were significant benefactors of the church in the mid-1700s. Mary outlived her husband Titus, and upon her death in 1777 she granted freedom to Grace. We can presume that Esau already had been freed by that point, as both Grace and Esau were granted a dwelling, some property, a cow, a bed, pots, and more, all of which would revert back to St. Paul’s upon their death. Based on property records found in the Wallingford Town Hall by The Witness Stones Project, we discovered that Esau became a small businessman, buying and trading a number of properties. Grace worked as a spinner and weaver, and she farmed alongside Esau. From census records we can determine that Grace died sometime after 1830 and Esau after 1840.

This is about all we know about these two individuals, and so I wonder about all that we don’t know. What were their lives really like? Were they able to get an education? Even when they were emancipated, what was it like for them to live in Wallingford—where were they welcome, and from where were they excluded? Were they ever allowed inside the church building—a building whose funding was partly made possible by their own labors? And what about their names? Were they given by their parents or by their enslavers? In fact, did they even have the opportunity to get to know their parents?

We will likely never fully know what the lives of Grace and Esau were like, but the parts of their stories that we do know help us understand just a bit more fully the story of our past. By learning more about everyone who contributed to our community, whether directly or indirectly, we develop a more inclusive and complete understanding of who we are. And, even more importantly, by recognizing and acknowledging injustices, whether past or present, we will be motivated to continue to work for a world in which all human beings are treated with dignity and justice. We know there is work to be done. We see it in the national news every day. We see it right here in our own town in the hateful and racist graffiti that was recently painted on our Vietnam War memorial. And we see it in the continued systemic inequities in so many parts of everyday life. Let us pray that our work with the Witness Stones Project and our continued learning will spur us to strive for a world in which there is no partiality so that we can someday live out the vision of unity expressed by Paul…so that, in all of our beautiful difference, we can be one.

Links for more information:

https://www.myrecordjournal.com/News/Wallingford/Wallingford-News/Wallingford-Juneteenth.html

https://witnessstonesproject.org/

All are welcome to join a workshop to learn more about Grace and Esau and about the history of slavery in Connecticut presented by the Witness Stones Project at St. Paul’s Wallingford (65 N. Main St., Wallingford, CT) on November 6 at 4:00 pm. The presentation will be followed by a prayer service. For more information contact the church at 203-269-5050.

An Old Remedy for a New Cure

A couple of weeks ago I was cleaning out my books to set up my new study at Trinity Church in Brooklyn, CT and I ran across a book by John McKnight and Peter Block called The Abundant Community.

Come to me and I will give you rest

Rest sounds nice when the phone buzzes in the middle of the night. Heart racing, I lift myself out of the cocoon of my warm comforter, rub the sleep from my eyes, and wonder where I put my glasses.

Holy Week.

I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13) Holy Week is upon us. I don’t know how you all do it. But I’m about to find out.

#AdventWord Reflections from the Fourth Week of Advent

#AdventWord may be over, and we didn’t want you to miss the great reflections from the fourth week of Advent shared on ECCT’s Facebook and Instagram. #AdventWord #GodisStillSpeaking


#feed

December 20


#generations

December 21


#magnify

December 22


#flock

December 23


#greeting

December 24


#child

December 25

More from ECCT Stories

#AdventWord Reflections from the Third Week of Advent

As in year’s past, ECCT is participating in #AdventWord. Each day during Advent, we post the daily #AdventWord on our FacebookTwitter, and Instagram feed. We welcome and encourage everyone to join in commenting in response to day’s post with a word, thought, image, poem, prayer, or whatever the Spirit prompts in you each day. Below you will find the comments posted on each day’s word on our Facebook and Instagram feed. We welcome you to read, look, listen, and reflect on our first week walking through Advent together.


#share

December 13


#exult

December 14


#stir

December 15


#gladness

December 16


#bountiful

December 17


#sing

December 18


#blessed

December 19

Learn more about the global #AdventWord community.

More from ECCT Stories

#AdventWord Reflections from the Second Week of Advent

As in year’s past, ECCT is participating in #AdventWord. Each day during Advent, we post the daily #AdventWord on our FacebookTwitter, and Instagram feed. We welcome and encourage everyone to join in commenting in response to day’s post with a word, thought, image, poem, prayer, or whatever the Spirit prompts in you each day. Below you will find the comments posted on each day’s word on our Facebook and Instagram feed. We welcome you to read, look, listen, and reflect on our first week walking through Advent together.


#everlasting

December 6


#offering

December 7


#messenger

December 8


#splendor

December 9


#repent

December 10


#compassion

December 11


#expectation

December 12

Learn more about the global #AdventWord community.

More from ECCT Stories

#AdventWord Reflections from the First Week of Advent

As in year’s past, ECCT is participating in #AdventWord. Each day during Advent, we post the daily #AdventWord on our FacebookTwitter, and Instagram feed. We welcome and encourage everyone to join in commenting in response to day’s post with a word, thought, image, poem, prayer, or whatever the Spirit prompts in you each day. Below you will find the comments posted on each day’s word on our Facebook feed. We welcome you to read, look, listen, and reflect on our first week walking through Advent together.


#promise

November 28


#strength

November 29


#soul

November 30


#path

December 1


#justice

December 2


#fulfill

December 3


#heart

December 4


#praise

December 5

Learn more about the global #AdventWord community.

More from ECCT Stories