Reading: John 8:32
You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.
“God of all creation, we come before you and in the company of one another with open hearts and minds to listen with care to one another as we embrace our vulnerabilities and seek to learn and grow. Free us from our uncertainties, hesitancies, and fears. Be present and move among us in all our conversations. Fill us with your Spirit. Amen.”
From Session 1: Now is the Time for Truth “Now is the Time,” a study guide to the “Declaration of the ELCA to People of African Descent.”
What better devotional expression is there during Black History Month than to engage the “Declaration of the ELCA to People of African Descent” through the accompanying study called “Now Is the Time”? The study is filled with biblical references, prayers, first person accounts, discussion questions, and much more. But first, a few words about Black History Month.
Black History Month
Black History Month, or African American History Month, is an annual celebration of African Americans and their contribution to American history. Celebrated in February, Black History Month was officially recognized by former President Gerald Ford in 1976. He called upon the public to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”
Before all that, in 1926, Dr. Carter G. Woodson declared the second week of February a time to celebrate the contributions made by African Americans. He chose this week because of the birthdays of two men important to the African American history: President Abraham Lincoln (Feb. 12) and author and abolitionist Frederick Douglass (Feb. 14).
To read reflections on Black History Month from Lutheran women, consider these blog posts:
Honoring Bold African American Women for Black History Month, by Valora K Starr
Celebrating Black History Month, by Judith E.B. Roberts
The Blessing of a Rich, Deep, Dark Faith for Black History Month, by Carla S. Christopher
On June 27, 2019, the Church Council of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America adopted a declaration—an apology—addressed to people of African descent. It is called the “Declaration of the ELCA To People of African Descent.” The apology begins this way: the ELCA “apologizes to people of African descent for its historical complicity in slavery and its enduring legacy of racism in the United States and globally. We lament the white church’s failure to work for the abolition of slavery and the perpetuation of racism in this church. We confess, repent and repudiate the times when this church has been silent in the face of racial injustice.”
A five-part study called “Now Is the Time” has been prepared so that congregations, including congregational units of Women of the ELCA, can study the declaration. In addition to the study guide, participant materials have been prepared too.
As your February devotion, you are encouraged to download the study guide and participant materials. Read through them. Consider how your congregational unit can use “Now is the Time.” Could you host sessions for your own congregation? Could you plan a weekend retreat with the materials? Could a conference or cluster plan a series of Zoom meetings to discuss the materials? What books will you ask participants to read in advance? How can you create a safe and brave space for the necessary conversations?
All this work furthers the anti-racism foci to which our organization has been called. We are to create awareness, engage in accompaniment, and be advocates. Find support for these callings through the Racial Justice Advocacy Network of Women of the ELCA.