My family spent last week at the beach, taking long walks, soaking in the sun, building sand castles. It was a good week of disconnecting. The television was silent. I didn’t check my email. I stayed away from Facebook most all week. But when we got home late Saturday afternoon, the world rushed back too quickly. When I checked the news, I discovered the chaos that had happened in Charlottesville. I don’t even have words for how I felt in seeing the pictures, reading about the hatred and violence. It was a hard night.
Sunday morning I woke up and went to church, Cornerstone Church in Snellville, Georgia. It is a young church–we will celebrate our twelfth anniversary on August 27. It is a small church–we had thirty people in worship on Sunday, and that is a good crowd for us. It is also a black church–on most Sundays, mine is the only white face in the building.
I’ve been a member of Cornerstone for six years now. I serve as one of the associate pastors. It is a long story of how I ended up at Cornerstone, but the short version goes like this. Love drew me in. Love has kept me there. Love shows up for me every Sunday at the Corner. This past Sunday was no different. As I stood to offer words of welcome, I realized how important it was for me to be with my congregation the day after the horror of Charlottesvillle–not because they needed me, but because I need them. They have been my teachers, my friends, my companions on this journey. They have patiently taught me that the road to racial justice is a long one. They have taught me that reconciliation will not happen quickly–it takes years and years of tenuous, fierce commitment, steady and strong effort. They have shared with me their stories–every day stories of encounters with discrimination, bias, and hatred. They have taught me that the sin of racism isn’t something we can talk about at Cornerstone only on Martin Luther King, Jr. Sunday or on the Sunday after a shooting or white nationalist rally. The sin of racism is ever-present. My congregation talks about it and lives with it every week, and they have helped me over and over again be honest about my own sin of racism. It is the sin I have to confess and re-confess most often.
Saturday was so deeply disturbing–but on Sunday, Cornerstone’s love drew me in again. I found glimmers of hope in the midst of the darkness. After worship, we had a back-to-school picnic at a nearby lake. We grilled hot dogs and ate peanut butter cake. The kids fished with Robert. It wasn’t a lucky day for Robert, but two of the youngest boys caught fish. The adult kids had a serious and very competitive water gun fight that featured shrieks and loud laughter and soaked clothes. The little girls played in the sand with the buckets and shovels that Yvette brought. When the girls ventured down to the lake, they stood a little too near the water–and we all heard their Nana yelling, “Get away from that water, girls. You’ll fall in, and I’ll have to come in after you!” By late afternoon, we were all sweaty and in need of a nap so we packed up the leftovers and picked up the trash. As I was leaving, Kyra wrapped her arms around me and said, “You have a good week, Dr. Durso.”
I don’t know the way forward for our country with regard to racial equality. I don’t have very good answers at all. I have no definitive statements to make about how to bring change or how we should do this justice work. But what I do know is what Cornerstone has taught me–the road toward reconciliation is a long one, and we will all need companions on the way. Today and every day, I am thankful to have my Cornerstone family to walk with on this journey.
Pam Durso is executive director of Baptist Women in Ministry, Atlanta, Georgia.