The Absalom Jones Center for Racial Healing is returning to the building on July 20, 2021. We join thousands of others who are cautiously returning to their physical workspaces after many months of absence due to Covid-19.
Covid-19 brought many challenges, but the most profound one for us at the Absalom Jones Center for Racial Healing was the invitation to reinvent ourselves. For several months pior to Covid we talked a bit about moving some of our work onto a virtual platform. I was not in favor of it, simply because I did not believe that we could offer high quality dismantling racism classes and other programs seeking to facilitate transformation without being in the room with the participants. I was wrong!
Covid-19 delivered this Invitaion to us, “ You are invited to reimagine your work or die!” The Center accepted the Invitation to reimagine its work. Many blessings have come to the Center because we said, “yes” even though we went forward in fear and trembling with a fair amount of hesitation. Our team of amazing dismantling racism facilitators enthusiastically stepped up to the challenge to make the changes needed to move the classes onto a virtual platform. Of course all of us wondered how it would work out, but we decided to believe that God would be faithful to us as has been true for us and this work since we began. We were correct.
We have been able to offer our classes to many others across the wider church since they are online and in some cases there have been reports that this format seems to create even more brave space for participants' genuine expressions of thoughts and feelings. Perhaps this has resulted from the sense of comfort that is afforded to participants by being in the comfort of their homes and other familiar spaces. The facilitators have been quite pleased with the results of every class over the past fifteen months.
Along with this we have doubled our database which moved from slightly under 5000 to over 13,000. Our donations tripled because our online programming was available to participants across the wider church and beyond and many in this expanding audience chose to share their resources generously with the Center in gratitude for its work. Our audience began to include folks from Canada, Latin America, West Africa, Europe and the Caribbean.
Perhaps, my greatest surprise was my ability to learn how to do a few new things in this regard as well. Prior to this time, I never scheduled any virtual meetings or recorded on any device for any reason, but that changed for me. I received great coaching from a couple of expert young technology coaches. They were great and loved working with me because they said my childlike glee with what I was learning made them happy. Thus, I learned to make videos of my short inspirational vignettes and moved on to being able to record sermons and other talks to be sent across the wider church. It was remarkable because I had been led to navigate my way from skeptic to willing participant in the use of technology as a necessary partner in doing the work of the Center. It is a great tool.
Along with all of this for which we rejoice, we also grieve! We grieve for the loss of life in our country and across the world from Covid-19 and all of the other types of suffering that it brought and continues to bring in some cases. We hold the conflicting energy of gratitude and grief in our hands and hearts.
What Invitation did Covid-19 offer to you and how did you answer? How has it been for you and where do you see yourself being led as we slowly move out of this forced hibernation into rebirth? What is the new Invitation to you for this space? How will you answer? Please share your thoughts and feelings with us as we all strive to stay in the health and freedom struggle.