|The Egyptians to their neighbors, the newly freed Israelites. God planned it, instructed Moses, and reminded him to tell the children of Israel to ask. Pharaoh certainly wasn’t paying reparations for slavery. But the Egyptians generously gave jewelry and clothing- portable wealth- to those who had not been paid a just wage for generations. |
This teaching in our Sept 6, 2020 online service seems so long ago. Indeed, our NCF conversations about the why of reparations have been ongoing. As a step of faith, putting our money where our mouths are, the Leadership Team began 2021 by committing half of our Ministry Development Fund to a newly created line item for Reparations. We didn’t know what that would mean, but we trusted God to lead.
Out walking in early January, I sought direction. Asking the Lord, “What scriptures? What next?” When I heard the story of Zaccheus anew. Reparations, Jesus-style. The imperative to return wealth unjustly acquired (by a system that favors the few) brought salvation. Repairing relationships and the complexity of financial redistribution would likely be a lifelong journey for the tax collector.
What about us? We keep learning about our history and grappling with injustice and violence in the now. Reparations are not limited to Hebrew history or Christian scriptures. The attempts to address grievous wrongs tell their own stories of nations grappling with guilt and suffering, seeking to repair their societies.
This conversation is beyond New Covenant. International examples beg consideration. What has Germany done? What about South Africa? What is our part in those stories, and what do they tell us? We are not alone in these questions.
The Champaign-Urbana Jewish Federation and the Interfaith Alliance of Champaign County join us in sponsoring our First Four Conversations. The historical and legal complexity demand the expertise of a scholar dedicated to the difficulty of these undertakings. Five times cited by the United States Supreme Court, Dr. Paul Finkelman specializes in the history of slavery, civil rights, religion, and race relations. He invites our questions and discussion as we bring this conversation closer to home with each session. From the aftermath of WWI to examples of reparations in US History to the latest proposals in Evanston, IL- we will explore them together. You are invited!
And then we will process our experience with Dr. Jeffrey Trask and Gladys Hunt, MSW. Longtime NCFers, gifting us with their teachings and music, invested in our CU community and the fellowship of faith. Together we will decide what’s next.
The recent move to consider HR 40 in Congress makes this a national conversation. For us, it is a neighborly endeavor. For the NCF extended family around the world. For the wider CU community. We engage as people of faith- called to justice, mercy, and repair of the world.
We start this Sunday April 25 at 6:15pm Central via Zoom. May the God of us all prepare our hearts and minds to listen and learn, that we might be equipped to do the work of justice and mercy ahead.