I arrived to Annual Session extremely jet lagged, running on embers, as I just returned from my honeymoon. The day from my vantage point was experienced outer body. Since all of me was not available, it made me pay closer attention to every conversation, question asked, presentation, and song sung. Interesting, how the mind will chime in so intently when the body is incredibly fatigue. Annual Session awakened, rather, reawakened my thirst for religion to work in society. My spirit rejoiced; as I sat listening to the call for sewing machines for women in Rwanda, the illuminating parallel between church and gangs painted by our guest speaker Rev. Romal Tune, the introduction of the new ABCNJ Relief trailer or even hearing my own voice echo while praying for victims/survivors of violence and perpetrators. Here were experiential examples of the church working in society. And where it was not already doing so, there was a call, admonition to move pass the comfort of walls and traditions in order to be a catalyst for God to meet people in the intersections of their lives. This joyful experience was culminated by the Regional Wreath of Healing.
The wreath initially bare, signified the vulnerability victims often feel. Yet in the span of the early afternoon the wreath became covered with shades of purple, teal and blue ribbons. I remain in awe with the testimonies shared from survivors. Many this year took pictures of the display and several churches left flyers for programs they will be hosting this month to bring about awareness. I suppose I should be grateful to the NFL for the push. For making us, the church, less afraid to tackle the subject. Notable was the woman who thanked me for praying for those who perpetrate too. Honestly, I was afraid of that part of my prayer. Afraid it would be misunderstood, although we are called to pray for our enemies. But my greatest delight at Annual Session involved the exchange with one of the youth from Urban Promise. She asked about the wreath and upon telling her, her youthful hands reached for multiple ribbons as she replied, “Ooh yeah I know many.” In that moment I realized the wreath proved to be an intergenerational, intercultural, multilingual beacon of God’s people covering those hurting. In the simple gesture of tying a ribbon, as a region, we helped reclaim the voices silenced by violence.