By Pastor Jorden
In August I had the privilege of taking a three-day journey, called Sankofa, with some of my brothers and sisters of the Evangelical Covenant Church (Covenant) to understand the role of race in the history of our country.
Sankofa is a word in the Twi language of Ghana that translates to "Go back and get it" (san - to return; ko - to go; fa - to fetch, to seek and take) and also refers to the Asante Adinkra symbol represented by a bird with its head turned backwards while its feet face forward carrying a precious egg in its mouth. The word sankofa is often associated with the proverb, “Se wo were fi na wosankofa a yenkyi," which translates as: "It is not wrong to go back for that which you have forgotten."
The Covenant has been offering their Sankofa trip for over 20 years and it has been a trip that I have wanted to take for the last ten years. This year, I was finally able to do it. The Covenant’s Sankofa trip traces the history of race in America, and tangibly equips believers to begin living into the church’s mission to be ambassadors of reconciliation. The Sankofa trip accomplishes this by exploring historic sites of the Civil Rights Movement, connecting the freedom struggle of the past, to our present realities.
This trip was an interactive, spiritual formation, pilgrimage that has further equipped me to pursue racial righteousness inside and outside our church. I met the group in Chicago on Tuesday August 13 for our initial gathering and greeting. We boarded a bus in the evening and traveled through the night to Birmingham, Alabama. On Wednesday morning we arrived in Birmingham to have breakfast at the Magic City Grill where we met Minister Jean. Minister Jean was a wonderful woman of God who marched as a child with Martin Luther King Jr.
Minister Jean told about her story of growing up in the south during the civil rights movement. When we left Magic City Grill I gave Minister Jean a hug, thanking her for her ministry and witness. She whispered in my ear something about finding my voice and using it. This was a powerful word from Minister Jean; she was encouraging me to find my voice and speak up. I believe this was a word from God about who He has called me to be.
After breakfast, we made our way on the bus over to the 16th Street Baptist Church. This is the site where there was a bombing on September 15, 1963. This bombing was an act of white supremacist terrorism which occurred at the African-American 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, on a Sunday when the church was hosting a youth rally. Four black girls were killed and at least 14 others were injured, sparking riots and a national outcry. Those killed in the bombing were 11-year-old Denise McNair and 14-year-olds Carole Robertson, Addie Mae Collins and Cynthia Wesley. It was a sobering experience to walk through this beautiful sanctuary, knowing the dark history that happened there in 1963.
While we were at the 16th Street Baptist Church we met Mister Louis. Mister Louis was also part of the marches in Birmingham, marching alongside Martin Luther King Jr. Mister Louis now works and volunteers at the 16th Street Baptist Church sharing the history and maintaining the property. Mister Louis entertained any questions we had about the history or otherwise. Someone in the group asked him how he felt about the current state of the race conversation in our country. Mister Louis sat down and said he felt discouraged about the ways in which it feels like we have regressed in the fight toward equality and unity. He said he was tired of fighting for racial equality because he had already fought through the marches in the 60's and he felt like he is being asked to do that hard work again.
After speaking with Mister Louis, we went across the street from the church to walk through Kelly Ingram Park, a large memorial park telling the history of the marches and the abuse that the marchers faced. Also, across the street from the 16th Street Baptist Church is the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. We spent time walking through the exhibits at the institute and saw documentation and exhibits of all of the historical movements that took place in Birmingham during the Civil Rights Movement. It was truly painful to walk through the exhibits and see the hatred and cruel actions that were taken against fellow children of God.
In the afternoon we left Birmingham and traveled to Montgomery, Alabama. Montgomery was one of the centers for the trading and selling of slaves. At one time there were many slave auction houses and slave holding centers, almost like prison/warehouses where the slaves were stored between auctions. The conditions of these holding warehouses were not good and many of the slaves would get sick from the extreme temperatures and conditions and even die. When we were in Montgomery we visited one of these warehouses that has been converted into the Legacy Museum.
The Legacy Museum: From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration is situated on a site in Montgomery where enslaved people were once warehoused. A block from one of the most prominent slave auction spaces in America, the Legacy Museum is steps away from an Alabama dock and rail station where tens of thousands of black people were trafficked during the 19th century. In 2018 the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) transformed this once oppressive site into a rich treasure of history, exploring the history of enslavement and incarceration in America. Also, in Montgomery is the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, the nation’s first memorial dedicated to the legacy of enslaved black people, people terrorized by lynching, African Americans humiliated by racial segregation and Jim Crow, and people of color burdened with contemporary presumptions of guilt and police violence. This Memorial is set on a six-acre site, using sculpture, art, and design to contextualize racial terror. The site includes a memorial square with 800 six-foot monuments to symbolize thousands of racial terror lynching victims in the United States and the counties and states where this terrorism took place. EJI has curated one of the best-known resources to learn about the history of racism and terror in America. Not only have they done a massive amount of research and study, they have also brought this rich data to life with these exhibits and placed them all in one of the epicenters of the historic movement.
From Montgomery we travel to Selma, Alabama where we stayed in a hotel to rest up for the next day. In the morning we traveled to the Edmund Pettus Bridge which is the site of Bloody Sunday. On March 7, 1965, some 600 civil rights marchers headed east out of Selma on U.S. Route 80. They got only as far as the Edmund Pettus Bridge six blocks away, where state and local lawmen attacked them with billy clubs and tear gas and drove them back into Selma. It was so violent that there was literally blood streaming down the pavement of the bridge. The march was a march for voting rights for all.
We marched over the bridge and it was a very emotional experience, knowing what happened in that exact same spot only some 50 years ago. After marching over the bridge, we travelled to Memphis, Tennessee. In Memphis we visited the National Civil Rights Museum, which is also the Lorraine Motel where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968. After we explored the Museum and the hotel, we went on a Historical Memphis Bus Tour led by Miss Elaine. Miss Elaine and her sisters grew up in Memphis during the Civil Rights Movement and they were one of the most arrested sibling groups during the civil rights movement because of their involvement in the nonviolent protests. Miss Elaine knew the ins and outs of the history of the Civil Rights Movement in the Memphis area and beyond. On our tour we stopped at Slave Haven, a mansion that was part of the underground railroad. Slave Haven had an underground cellar where slaves could hide until it was safe to venture to the Mississippi River to travel north to escape the south into Canada.
The official part of my Sankofa journey ended with dinner on Beale Street. Beale Street is in Memphis and it was one of the only places that blacks could go to dinner or the theater and enter through the front doors. Most places black people would have to enter through the alley and sit in a separate seating area. On Beale Street black men and women could feel like people and not like second rate citizens.
On Thursday night after dinner on Beale Street we boarded the bus and traveled through the night to a Covenant Church just outside of Chicago for our debrief time. We spent time talking about what we could do when we returned to our churches and how this trip has changed us or emboldened us to take next steps on our journey toward biblical reconciliation.
There is so much more I could say about this three-day trip. I would recommend this trip to anyone and everyone. It is eye-opening and life changing. I am still processing this trip and what God is calling me to and what God is calling ECC to. I am praying and discerning. I am confident that God has me here at ECC for a purpose and I am passionate about how we as a faith community can welcome people who look different than we do. I invite you to join me in praying and discerning how God might use our faith community to look back at our history and move forward knowing the truth.
y Carol Smith
I continue to be in awe of our teens at ECC. I step back and look at what they experience today, and I am impressed by their response. I watch them see a need and look in themselves to what God has gifted them with and say “I can do something about this.” Nathan Park is one example of what it means to act in accordance to the Gospel and use his gifts to make a difference in the world!
Let me tell you a little about Nathan. He is a freshman at West Lafayette High School. He works hard and has a great attitude about life. Like many people his age, he sees the world around him and found that it is not always fair. His response to the unfairness of the world was to join a group this year called CaptioTech, a non-profit organization founded and run by West Lafayette High School students. CaptioTech is dedicated to making sure all students have a computer at home to complete their homework. They take unwanted computers, return them to factory mode and set them up for use of students. It’s incredible to me to see that young people see a need in the world and use their gifts to help others have an equal place in life. Nathan is the Vice President of Advertising and Marketing for CaptioTech.
Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act. Do not say to your neighbor, "Come back tomorrow and I’ll give it to you"—when you already have it with you.
By Kate Cogswell
We live in a world that values more – more accomplishments, more activities, more acquisitions, more ______ (fill in the blank). All this push for more infiltrates our schedules, our thoughts, and our lives. So much so, that many of us begin to wear “busy” as a badge of honor, or we find ourselves feeling ‘less than’ when our schedules aren’t full.
What about you? Have you ever found yourself longing for more? Have you found yourself longing for different? What if your longing for more is really a longing for less? What if it is a longing for a different pace? What if it is a longing for a “pause”?
Pause, by definition, is a temporary stop or rest, especially in speech or action. It is synonymous with breathe, catch one’s breath, rest, take a breather. A pause can be passive (I let go, I’m still, I stop, I breathe out) or active (I’m conscious in this moment, I am attentive, I breathe in).
Most of us are still learning - not only how to pause wisely, but also the value of pause. Wherever we are on the spectrum of busy, there is an invitation to learn to pause well.
The good news is that everyone, including you, can pause. With Jesus, we can pause in the middle of busy or not busy, in relationships or loneliness, in grief or joy… We can discover what it looks like for us to “be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10) in the midst of real life.
Recently, “real life” for me has held some pretty weighty things - circumstances pressing in for my attention - a perfect storm of events taxing my emotional, my physical, and even my spiritual energy. A good friend asked me, “What do you need?” When I struggled to answer, she pressed a bit further with another question. “What popped into your mind when I first asked?” She knows me well and knew I had discounted an answer. I sheepishly admitted, “I’d like a month at the beach. Alone.” And while that isn’t truly possible, we looked beneath my answer to uncover a longing for space, for solitude, for uninterrupted time with God. That revelation was the incentive I needed to become even more intentional about meeting with God alone within the context of the circumstances of my life. It began to look like a few hours here and a few hours there, growing to a day a week (most weeks). Then one day it dawned on me – this sounds like “sabbath!” I’m sure God was smiling as I caught on to His invitation. Sabbath is sacred time God set apart at creation. Years ago I heard Sabbath defined as “a space of time allotted for ceasing from production in exchange for engaging in enjoyment with God.” This was the more I was needing.
Genesis 2:3 (The Voice) tells us, “Thus God blessed day seven and made it special—an open time for pause and restoration, a sacred zone of Sabbath-keeping, because God rested from all the work He had done in creation that day.”
Do you see the beauty of this passage accentuated in this version? Sabbath rest equated with pause. I believe God is inviting us to pause.
What does pause look like? The beauty of God’s invitation to pause is that it looks different for each of us. For me, sometimes it looks like taking a walk. Sometimes it’s taking a nap. Other times it is simply slowing down and breathing deeply. Occasionally, it’s staring at the lake or snuggling a baby. It has also been praying, reading a book, spending time with a friend.
What does it look like for you? What could it look like for you to prioritize a “pause” in your life? I would love to hear what God does as you change your pace and pause.
Ladies – In a world that is fast-paced and full, we invite you to PAUSE to connect with God and other women at our annual women’s retreat, November 1-3. This weekend retreat is designed to create space for you to change your pace and explore ways to pause with Jesus in the midst of real life circumstances.
This retreat can be whatever you need it to be. If you need solitude and quiet, you can find solitude. If you need fun, you can find fun. If you need connection and to meet new people, that can happen for you. If you need worship or desire to be closer to God or maybe get some clarity about something in your life or want some good biblical teaching, God can and will do that for you at this retreat.
So, I am asking you, ladies, to really consider it. Think about it. Pray about it. Don’t immediately write it off that you’re too busy or that this is a place for others, but not you. Don’t assume you can’t get away for a weekend (you can!). Invite your girlfriend, sister, mom, daughter, or co-worker so you can have “your person” with you. Or come – maybe you will make a new friend - I did at my first ECC retreat!
Register by September 22 and save $10! Come PAUSE with us!
By Pastor Stacey Littlefield
During worship on Sunday, we began a 10-week exploration of three Touchstones that will shape the future of our mission and vision at ECC. A touchstone was a piece of flint-like, black stone used to determine the quality of gold and other precious metals by examining the color of the mark left when the metal was scratched against it. Since then, its meaning has evolved to refer to a test or criterion by which we measure the genuineness of something, and, probably most helpful for our purposes at ECC, a touchstone is “a fundamental or quintessential part or feature” of something.
The Ministry Planning Team, the next phase of the Vitality Pathway we’ve been on since 2017, the pastoral staff, with the support of our church Council, proposes three touchstones to represent where we sense God is leading us. Over the next few weeks we will explore the touchstones of Welcome, Transformation, and Presence. We began this week with our first look at Presence.
Our mission at ECC is, “To know God, follow Jesus, and pursue God’s purposes in the world.” Presence fits within the last of the three clauses of our mission statement. That is, we “pursue God’s purposes in the world” when we empower and equip one another to practice faithful presence in our community and world, by loving God, loving others, and making disciples. We believe there is strong biblical energy behind our calling to be present in the world for the sake of others.
For starters, God demonstrated his own heart for creation in the Incarnation – when he took on flesh and made his dwelling among us (John 1.14). And he calls us to be like yeast working through a batch of dough (Matthew 13.33), transforming our world simply by being in it and being faithful to who God calls us to be.
Likewise, the Apostle Paul reminds us by his example that wherever we go, we go as Christ’s ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5.20). We who have been reconciled to God live out and proclaim the message of reconciliation; we carry with us the ministry of reconciliation. As we are transformed by the Spirit of God, we become agents of transformation in our homes, neighborhoods, schools, and places of work.
Finally, when Jesus had risen from the dead, he appeared to his disciples, saying, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you” (John 20.21). We, like Jesus, are sent into the world to pursue God’s purposes.
Because God is a sending God, and because he has empowered us with the gift of his Holy Spirit, we seek to engage our relationships and world by being and bringing the good news of Christ Jesus wherever we are.
The ministries we serve, the initiatives we launch, and the lives we live outside of ECC environments and contexts, are all places in which God is present in us and through us.
Our corporate worship, our classes, our retreats, as well as our own personal spiritual practices transform us so that, through us, God might transform the world. In how we live our lives and in where we serve the greater mission of ECC, we know we have been sent to be agents of change and redemption.