When guilt, shame, and blame transform to curiosity, grief, and humility, a door to liberation flies open.
For the past year and a half, the congregation of Immanuel Lutheran Church in Seattle has been on an intentional journey of humble learning and intentional AntiRacism training. This is not the beginning of their work. In many ways they have been immersed in the work for years as part of their ministry with refugees, people living on the streets, folks in recovery and advocacy for justice in the areas of poverty, food distribution and gender equality. But what has been new is the formation of an intentional team of people who call themselves the AntiRacism Team.
For a year the team led monthly forums for the congregation, providing baseline education on terminology such as; Whiteness, White Privilege and Intersectionality. They facilitated conversations to clarify understanding of Gender Identity as a spectrum just like Sexuality. They made space for stories to be told about the disparities of the criminal justice system and police brutality. They accepted an invitation to share their experience as a workshop for other congregations. All the while, they humbly claim no particular level of expertise, simply a desire and willingness to be accountable to one another and to continue to challenge the congregation.
The congregation has been warm and receptive to the work, seeking more than just 1-hour monthly forums. So the time came to do more. It was time for a retreat. The team, decided it was time to dive-in to the depths of #decolonizeLutheranism.
As their pastor, it is my humble joy to shepherd them in this work. So when they asked me to invite my beloved collaborator of holy chaos at Churchwide Assembly to come to Seattle and co-lead the retreat with me, there was only one possible response: HELL YEAH!
And so it was that this past Saturday that, the itinerant preacher, Rev. Tuhina Rasche, and the veteran youth minister with a social justice lens, Rev. Priscilla Paris-Austin, were reunited for a workshop titled: The Liberating Love of the #decolonizeLutheranism Movement.
PRISCILLA: Tuhina, Thanks for joining us in Seattle. My family is always happy to host you when you visit. But what were you thinking when you accepted this invitation to be here on your birthday weekend?
TUHINA: The Spirit works when the Spirit works. When I visited Seattle in March to meet with communities to talk about #decolonizeLutheranism, I mentioned that these are conversations that need to take place over time. I made a commitment to the people of Immanuel Lutheran and other communities where I spoke that I would return if they wanted to continue the conversation on what it meant to seriously work toward decolonizing the ELCA. The people of Immanuel wanted to continue that conversation, and they wanted to invite their ecumenical partners who are also invested in this work. The date that worked happened to be my birthday weekend. You promised me cake (I got two, as a matter of fact), but the work of liberation and love is a daily practice. I knew that I would be surrounded by my siblings in Christ to celebrate my birthday, but to also do the continuing work to profess the full inclusivity of God’s love in the world.
PRISCILLA: What surprised you most about your time in Seattle?
TUHINA: This is hard work. These are vulnerable spaces in which to reside. This is a work that will truly continue until Christ comes again. Yet the time that we spent together as a community wrestling with the brokenness of the world was a holy time… and it is a time that passed quickly. I often see tired faces following such retreats; at this retreat, I saw a look of yearning, of people wanting more and wanting to continue to explore these difficult and vulnerable conversations to make them into embodied action. I had people come up to me following the retreat stating they’re ready for even more.
PRISCILLA: I was deeply appreciative of your vulnerability as you shared your motivations and perspective on the history and origin of the #decolonizeLutheranism movement. Can you talk about what it means for you to share that story, not for the first time, but for the first time with this group of folks?
TUHINA: One of the aspects of my ministry with #decolonizeLutheranism is to model the sharing of holy stories. Many times, holy stories come from places of extreme vulnerability. Oftentimes, I am incredibly scared to show such vulnerability in front of people I do not know, and in predominantly white spaces. I have to remind myself of the theology of the cross, realizing that power can be found in vulnerability. If I am able to honestly invite people into a vulnerable and brave space, if people are invested in the work of love and liberation, I trust that they will follow. Part of sharing my story is talking about embodiment. When I share the story of my motivation for this ministry, I want people to know there is flesh attached to the words, that there are real lives that are risking their candidacy, their ministry, and their lives for this work. I am grateful that the story was held as holy within this community. I am also grateful that people were able to share parts of themselves and where they could see themselves within the narrative of #decolonizeLutheranism and parallel stories within their denominations.
PRISCILLA: One of the things I found most helpful was the conversation around permissions and invitations. The group was so deeply engaged and hungry for learning that we found ourselves jumping into stories that we thought wouldn’t come up until later in the day. Instead the Holy Spirit was totally in control of our day. It was so fruitful and unplanned.
TUHINA: Absolutely. No retreat or workshop I’ve ever led has been the same. I continue to marvel at the communities that continue to be formed through #decolonizeLutheranism. I also appreciate that people were so willing to be vulnerable and to come with a sense of wonder. I loved that so many questions came so early in the retreat; it was evident that the group was so ready and eager not just to learn, but also to embody love and justice in the world.
PRISCILLA: On a personal note, I want to thank you for sharing your birthday weekend with us. There are moments in my life when I find myself feeling cynical or jaded by the world, even by the routine of the daily grind of ministry. But I stay in it because of moments like this weekend. Sitting next to you in worship, hearing you proclaim the word and watching you delight in praising Jesus was like a revival to my soul. Plus, without your visit, I might have never gone out to find the statue of Jimmy Hendrix. Traveling and partnering with you in ministry and life is such a blessing.
The Rev. Priscilla Paris-Austin