Learning to Long for the Beloved Community

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How one Indiana church is taking steps towards racial justice.

On a cool morning in March, I gather at my church with fellow members in Marion, Indiana. We stand in a circle in the parking lot, holding hands, praying not only for our body of believers but also for our town.

This is a church plant of the Evangelical Community Covenant Church, which we call R.E.A.L. Community Covenant Church. We attempt to incarnate our name: We are Relational, Evangelical, Authentic, and Loving. Despite our location in a city with a fraught place in America’s ugly racial history, ours is the only integrated church in the area.

We are a multiethnic, multiclass church, with different experiences of life in America and different journeys to this place. But we have a clear mission: To reconcile residents to Christ and to one other. Colossians 1:20 directs our path. It is Christ—God incarnated, crucified, and resurrected—who will reconcile all people, all things, to himself.

Which is why we are here, holding hands in a stony parking lot. Every one of our prayer walks begin and end here. I’ve been a long time in getting to this place.

I grew up in south Jersey in an affluent suburb, where the schools were so good that my brother, sister, and I had our choice of AP courses and studied Latin for four years. We enjoyed the pleasure of the countryside, too. A few times a year, my parents would pack us up and take us to the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania. There, my great-grandfather would lead us through his 40 acres of meadows and woods, remarking on bears and deer that had left their marks and complaining about the loggers who were clearing yet another part of the forest beyond his property.

You could look at my family in that moment and see how we’d earn advanced degrees, establish …

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