Last month, we hosted a gathering in San Francisco for participants in the Faith and Justice Network – our first in-person gathering since January 2020, our first chance to meet many of the people we have only known through our screens, our first time including “Coffee + Covid tests” on an event schedule, our first time learning together in-person. And yet. And yet our plans were shifting until the week of the event as we assessed if and how to gather safely in these seemingly never-ending times of Covid, balancing the pros and cons of virtual and IRL events, and trying to find a way to establish a new rhythm as we embrace being a fully online community with the desire to gather face-to-face on a regular basis.
And what a meaningful time of connection it was!
The weekend was full of good food, excellent teachings from Rev. Dr. Peter Choi and Rev. Riana Shaw Robinson, sunshine, and connecting with new friends. The goal of our time together was to create a safe place for curiosity, belonging, and having hard conversations about faith, justice, white supremacy, patriarchy, our hopes, our disappointments, and so much more. This is all vital for the work we are trying to do, the work of pursuing a more expansive and liberating vision of Christian faith in the world.
Here are a few stories from our attendees:
“This time together was nourishing in ways that I had no idea it would be. Once I made the decision to come, I had this intuitive feeling that I would be poured into in ways that I might not have imagined. I loved the way Peter framed our sessions around scripture with the themes of leaving, staying and what calls us to leave/stay when doing the work of decolonizing. The flow of conversation between Peter and Riana was energizing and nudged me to think of so many things. The invitation to this quiet table of thought was what it felt like for me. I am currently exploring the ways in which I engage my ministry, particularly as an ordained minister whose ministry setting is secular. I deeply enjoyed meeting so many new faces and hearing their perspectives. It was pure delight to be in space with some of my cohort group, too!
“This weekend was the first time in YEARS that I have sat down, opened a Bible, prepared to listen to a teaching, and not felt my cynical walls immediately build themselves up. I felt safe, not guarded against whatever harmful interpretation was about to be espoused and not guarded against what damage control I would have to do in my own spirit afterwards. That in and of itself was super healing, and to do it with new friends added another layer of healing.”
“I can’t stop thinking about Riana’s sermon about Jesus being lost to Mary and Joseph, and the statement, “You are not the first to lose Jesus, and you won’t be the last.” I think the framing around finding Jesus again and being angry when he is found was helpful too! AND that Jesus changed his behavior and went home with his parents and grew in wisdom, while Mary treasured this in her heart. I echo the thoughts about it being a special weekend where I felt my guard down, particularly in regards to the Bible. Thank you for the complexity around teaching, sheer excellence in teaching, and a beloved community to do it with.”
“It was such a (now rare) joy (for those of us who’ve been working from home for the last two years) to be able to connect with humans about the deepest things in our lives and times. Thank you to everyone for being there and leading it. Also, the way you talked about decolonizing our faith as the mission of this group has really been sitting with me as important, inspirational, and a call to action.”
We are so thankful for this time we could share together, and hope to be able to create another opportunity for in-person connection later this spring.