This weekend St. Matthias Episcopal Church will celebrate its 150th Anniversary. Their beginning was humble—“The Freedmen’s Church” began meeting at Trinity Church right after the Civil War. In a few years, a school was also started at Trinity because since 1835 North Carolina passed laws making it illegal to teach African Americans to read or write.
I think about what life must have been like in 1865: a country divided, massive distrust of government, haunted by a past of violence, little infrastructure. Yet in this time of turmoil, men and women-black and white—had a vision and they dared to act upon it. Bishop Thomas Atkinson, bishop of North Carolina, wanted to develop and ordain a local African American priest for this congregation which became St. Matthias. But when the Standing Committee refused its approval, he brought in an African American priest from the North.
I have often quoted a British theologian: “the Church is like a swimming pool. All the noise comes from the shallow end.” So it is with politics. Amid all the clamor this week and next week from the Republican and Democratic conventions, let us not be distracted from our callings. Our times are not as confusing as 1865 and our task are not as hard. We, therefore, must embrace the examples of those men and women who had a vision for a new church and a new beginning for all God’s children. It’s too easy to focus on what’s wrong, especially when there is so much that could be right.
Let us not see the world in terms of what divides us because division is always the shallow end. Let us dive into the deep waters and remember our calling is to be agents for God’s mission to make the world new. Let’s remember God’s vision for this world, this country, this part of North Carolina and then take one step towards that so that, 150 years from now, the faithful people of WNC will remember us and be inspired to do what God calls for them to do in their day.