Message from Joy Shillingsburg, Director of Outreach Ministries
Four years ago Roxanne Johnson and I led a weekly Lenten study entitled “Becoming Beloved Community.” This was a relatively new term for us at St. John’s but we were guided by the Episcopal Church’s structure for a Lenten study by the same name. We provided weekly readings, videos and centered content from the podcast series “Scene on Radio: Seeing White” (this is where Roxanne’s podcast addiction began) in our lessons. This was hard work, a Lenten disciple, an entering of a labyrinth for all who attended, which we strive to continue to walk together here at St. John’s. This week Roxanne and I prepared a Lenten study (in person!!) to discuss the “Church Cracked Open- a conversation with Rev. Spellers and Dr. Meeks” to continue our work of becoming Beloved Community. In her new book, “The Church Cracked Open,” Spellers expands on the ideas that the dual pandemics of COVID and racism have given us the opportunity to “learn to be church and to be community in a radically different setting,” in which we can re-center God and focus on being the church and not just going to church. To Spellers and Meeks, the first step in re-centering God in church and in our lives is to tell the truth, they say it at least a dozen times in their conversation! Stating truths and naming what is broken, wrestling with the term “reconciliation” and exploring why church needs to be a space where we can have these conversations is what we gathered to do on Wednesday night. It was a life giving conversation that St. John’s continues to be committed to. Enter the labyrinth and take some time to listen to The Church Cracked Open.
Canon Spellers draws a direct line from the brazen woman in Mark 14:3 who disrupted the dinner at Simon the leper’s home by breaking open the alabaster jar and pouring the precious nard over Jesus’ head to what we are witnessing today.
“We have been cracked open. We don’t know how to embrace the disruption, stop worshiping the beauty of the jar, instead break it open so the healing substance inside can work its way into a world that so desperately needs it. We’re tempted to scramble around and gather the pieces and reassemble the jar and scoop us the lost oil. We’re really terrified we might be the jar, broken open by God for love of the world. Maybe that’s what God wants, but it’s not what most American church folks signed on for.”
My work as the Director of Outreach and Wake Forest Community Table and having the space at St. John’s to have radical conversations like the ones we have had over the past four years clarify the meaning of this passage. Outreach and personal study with a church community can strengthen us to resist gathering up the broken pieces and recommit to letting the loving, healing, liberating oil inside flow into our community and into our families. This is messy and hard work, but it is the work we are called to do this Lent and beyond.