Recently for The Chapter at Nashotah House Theological Seminary, Dr. Jim Watkins interviewed Silverio Gonzalez, a parishioner at St. Michael’s, to discuss Nashotah’s “The Bible & Theology in Color” and the impact the course is having on the parish.
“Within days after the public death of George Floyd in what felt like a string of deaths of black Americans, I remember sitting down at my desk to write. I was troubled by a question that has haunted me for many years in the church: ‘Why is it the case that even in churches claiming to be catholic the concerns of black Christians, if handled at all, are handled in generalities and abstractions with a weak and uncertain voice?’
I was angry. I was angry because of what has happened and continues to happen in this country, and I was angry because I was too familiar with white Christian silence at the gross, public injustices of American society that so many white Christians silently watch, if not participate in and encourage. But I wasn’t just angry. I was sad, depressed even. I had come to St. Michael’s in part as one of those many black Christians leaving white evangelical spaces in what is now known as the ‘Quiet Exodus.’
When Fr. Doran called me, I was surprised but cautious. White pastors rarely cared about my black experience enough to check in with me and seek to provide pastoral care. When I heard that that Father Doran intended to take the course, The Bible & Theology in Color with the hope of engaging the parish in a discussion of its content and that St. Michaels decided to sponsor the course because they wanted to make it available to other parishes and Christians seeking guidance in this time, I was hopeful.
Over the past several months, I have seen honest wrestling within our parish. Our priests and many on staff at St. Michael’s have demonstrated courage and a willingness to enter into the pain and suffering of a violent history, answering God’s call to love in a way I haven’t experienced from a majority white church before. As staff members and parishioners have engaged the content of The Bible & Theology in Color, many have encouraged me with their willingness to learn, to listen, and to love in this difficult time.
So, when you ask me about the heart of the St. Michael’s Community, the word that comes to mind is ‘courage.’ I think that St. Michael’s has given a glimpse of the best of the Anglo-Catholic tradition—the commitment to answer God’s call to be agents of mercy and grace, participating in the life of God, seeking to embrace the way of the cross and to love when it’s difficult, to love when there aren’t clear answers or solutions, to love when words fail, to love when the dominant, white society in America would much rather embrace ideologies of hate that dehumanize their black and brown neighbors.”