This is the third nephew shot and killed in the past two years. Among the most violent neighborhoods in the country, this zip code is where Wright’s vibrant parish serves a vulnerable, marginalized, and under-resourced community, not only with worship services and small groups, but also with a ministry of candle vigils for victims of racial tension and gang violence. The park where her nephew died now holds greater prophetic significance as this community faithfully and incarnationally stands for peace, healing, and the life-transforming gospel of Jesus Christ.
Along with Jay Baylor, Wright co-pastors Church of the Apostles in the City in East Baltimore, Maryland and is intimately involved in racial reconciliation in the community. Baylor and Wright shared their story at a recent event called the Matthew 25 Gathering: Justice and Mercy Contending for Shalom hosted by Christ Church in Austin, Texas. From February 17 to February 19, a group of lay ministers and clergy from the US, Canada, and Mexico met to pray, build community, establish common language and values, and finally, to dream about what God has for the Anglican Church in North America. The gathering was birthed out of the desire of Archbishop Foley Beach to foster and further the Anglican Church in North America’s works of justice and mercy domestically.
With Archbishop Foley’s vision in mind, The Rev. Cn. David Roseberry, Canon for Mission, launched an initiative that would offer grants for ministries in need and also build awareness and expertise within the Anglican Church in North America regarding ministries among “the least of these.” The steering committee for the event included Sami DiPasquale (St. Clements, El Paso, Texas), David Hanke (Restoration Anglican, Arlington, Virginia), Bill Haley (The Falls Church,Virginia), and Clifton Warner (Christ Church, Austin Texas). Participants represented a diverse array of Christ-centered ministries that serve among the homeless, fight human trafficking, lead community development efforts, bring healing to the incarcerated, resettle and care for refugees, build urban farms in urban food deserts, and empower at risk children and youth.
As the person tasked to direct the conference and gather the steering committee, I had the privilege of convening this event. While there was significant diversity in the room, including laity and clergy, men and women, young and old, American and bi-cultural, white and people of color, we came together as one in Christ, united by kingdom mission. Because many of those present at the event work long hours in ministry, and struggle with isolation and discouragement, a part of the purpose of the meeting was to provide a much needed space for community, encouragement, and conversation. Over the course of three days, we “shared not just our stories but our lives,” according to the Rev. Greg Miller. We understood one another – the brokenness of those we serve, and the wonder of encountering Christ in the darkest places.
It was a blessing to be able to participate with so many faithful brothers and sisters in Christ,” says Carolyn Barnes. “There was an overwhelming sense of unity, a sense of [being] one in the Spirit, and a sense of family.”
During the gathering, anchored in Isaiah 58, we took time to unpack our rich Anglican history in justice and mercy, and delved into a Biblical theology of justice, mercy, shalom, and what it means to contend for God’s loving reign in the broken places of our world. One of the most meaningful moments was time spent in lament for those broken places.
Together we acknowledged that only Christ can transform a life, transform a community, and transform social structures. We ourselves are in desperate need of the sustaining life of Christ to “push back the darkness” in our own lives as well as in the most broken places and people of our continent. Wright and Baylor’s story of inner city Baltimore provides a powerful example. As we listened to them share about their ministry in a half white, half black parish located in the middle of a violent and race-torn city, we felt the weight of their pain. We also shared a deep-rooted belief that only God can heal the shattered neighborhoods where so many lives have been damaged and cut short.
-By Christine Taylor Warner – Born and raised in Guatemala, Christine witnessed the power and mercy of Jesus Christ in a context of poverty, violence, and civil war. To this day, she is most drawn to the frontiers of God’s kingdom where light is pushing back darkness, and where men and women are formed in the crucible of sacrificial service. In the United States she has also been involved in campus ministry, urban mission on the Mexican border, and church planting in Austin, Texas. She also teaches writing at a small liberal arts university, chairs a denominational task force for biblical justice, is on the supervising faculty of Selah (a spiritual direction training program), and is the director of Lumen: Center for Mission and Spirituality (a ministry for spiritual formation and spiritual direction). Christine, along with her pastor husband and four children, lives in Austin, Texas, spending summers in Guatemala’s city dump serving in ministry to and with staff who are pouring their lives out for the poorest of the poor. Christine’s particular emphasis is working with justice workers and mission/ministry staff within the U.S. and internationally.