“Experiencing a taste of heaven” is how I would describe the Deeply Rooted gathering on May 21. Truthfully, there were a host of reasons that could have kept me away. The month of May filled up with plenty of obligations. Thankfully, my husband encouraged me to make room for it. I even invited a friend! Forgetting to care for our own soul becomes tempting as we get in the habit of caring for others. Yet, we must be cautious that we don’t become parched and undernourished. We must find ways of keeping our roots sustained. The Deeply Rooted gathering did just that.
People worship our Creator in a variety of ways. The blessing that came through this gathering was the variety of worship forms through which the voice of God spoke. The songs, though familiar, took on a different perspective in this venue. Despite our differences and our church backgrounds, we were singing common music. The instruments may have been different (which I love) but the language was understood by all.
Intermingled with worship through music were speakers Rev. Dr. Velda Love, June Felix, and a poet Elyssa Salinas. We are all blessed when the Holy Spirit uses our unique gifts and talents to be manifest. I felt the characters come to life as she became their voices. In particular, I was impacted by the narrative of Hagar. So often the story is told of Abraham and Hagar takes a minor; if not scandalous part. Here, Hagar spoke of what was forced upon her. An act, which truthfully, is criminal by our standards. The pain, the humiliation, and despair she felt as she was cast away from the family that no longer had “need” of her was deep. Yet, in the midst of it, she is reminded that she is not invisible; she is not a label. She is known by and loved by her Creator.
June challenged the listeners to embrace the wonder of God. She drew us in by sharing a bit of her personal story involving her mother who had recently passed. She was left with unanswered questions regarding her mother’s life. Not having answers can leave us unsettled yet we’re reminded throughout scripture of the mysteries of God. For example, as she pointed out, many people know John 3:16 by heart; however, John 3:7-8 is not a popular memorized passage. June stated that “trusting God requires learning how to be comfortable with the ‘unknown knowns.’” “Unknown knowns” are the promises of God as revealed through scripture and a personal relationship. I appreciated her reminder that God gives just what we need for the moment. So often, I think of the “what ifs” down the road but forget that God’s already holding onto that for me. In a humorous illustration, our life hidden in Christ was compared to a “Turducken.” The closing challenge confronted our own legacy. By embracing the “unknown knowns,” others may look at our life and wonder “Who is this Jesus?”
Rev. Dr. Velda Love’s presentation exhorted women to reclaim their true identities. She began by referencing the choreopoem “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf.” Written by Ntozake Shange, the poem (and play) “is concerned with the victimization of women and with finding the young black woman’s voice and self.” The characters’ narratives bring a voice to both the individual and collective suffering at the hands of those in power. By expressing verbally and orally the violence against them as black women, they fight to break up a system that has perpetuated the oppression. Rev. Dr. Love asked us to consider what our own play would be called. Furthermore, the challenge lies in asking ourselves questions such as, “Who writes your story?” “Who has power over your existence?” “Who is mending your soul?” Such significant questions, but how often do we ask them? The answers have implications concerning how we view faith, our understanding of scripture, how we view God, and our relationship to others.
As we examined key passages, Rev. Dr. Love deconstructed common interpretations and provided historical and literal background. So much of what we come to understand biblically has its roots in source materials written in patriarchal societies. All miss out on the full implications of scripture when it is viewed through a lens that is skewed. Acknowledgement of that truth is necessary to embracing our identity as God’s creation. The coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost “is a sign and message to women; you are empowered by God to be whole, to speak and create, to worship, and not fear or feel threatened by life or life’s circumstances.” The Holy Spirit does not differentiate. That is reason to rejoice!
My friend and I are still basking in the glory of the Deeply Rooted gathering. The beauty of the Holy Spirit is manifest in the deepening of our relationships to each other as we are nourished individually. The insight gained from that evening continues to feed our conversations. Speaking of feeding, treats are always an appreciated part of any gathering. The hospitality was appreciated—not only did it allow for more opportunity to engage but the yummy snacks were a simple gesture of sharing God’s love. I’m quite sure my friend and I received an abundance of it! I look forward to the next Deeply Rooted gathering and more connections to feed my hungry soul.