A Letter from our Founder Jennifer Barnes: My Awakening
The segregated Sunday hour would become the greatest inner conflict within my faith journey during the most formative years and because of it I would silently question everything else about the faith I’d been handed, the version of church I’d inherited and the Great Commission that has echoed from God’s heart since before the foundations of this place were laid. The foundations where havoc we have reeked since that day mankind chose to know the things they did not need to know about good and evil. From the same blood of Adam and Eve our hearts all beat and long for restoration and oneness, wholeness again. Of this, I am convinced.
This is the story about my journey towards Awakening. My hope is that it inspires others who yearn for wholeness in God’s body to join in the journey. The journey to Awakening is a deeply personal work that must take place with great intentionality. Because it is so deeply personal, I cannot separate it from my personal journey. Because it is so deeply rooted in gospel, I cannot separate it from my Jesus. Parts of my story, I would rather bury and forget because life is messy. I wish I could create a roadmap for others to model, but I am not sure that is possible. Instead, I have found a compass. I believe we were all made for a specific purpose with a unique path in mind. The journey for each person will take different twists and turns, but the northern pull is Love and the pathway is always Truth. Truth will always lead you to a crossroad where you get to choose to do what Love requires of you. There is no roadmap, but this is the compass and we can all reach the same destination no matter the path. This is what I have come to believe because this is where truth and spirit have led me.
For this I have given a large portion of my life, because the next generation deserves a greater inheritance than the one of separation and misunderstanding we’ve been handed. I will be awakening for the rest of my life to the testimonies of others who don’t look like me, vote like me, have a marriage that looks like mine or a God with my God’s name, because love doesn’t shy away from differences. Love does not seek to convert through conquest. Love patiently sits with us in our siloed spaces, kindly listens to the point of understanding, draws us in and receives us as we are, without asking us to clean up, sit up or shut up. Love is the long run, not the sprint. It woos us. Love is the only force strong enough to pull us all together into unison. To woo us all together into unison. And unison is not conformity. Unison is a rhythm and a song that flows from the heartbeat of God, whose name is Love and whose allegiance to creation is bound by that Love, which is the very essence of who God is. And all of this is for love’s sake in order that we may love one another as unique beings, in one beautiful harmonious song.
I can hear the harmony when I close my eyes and imagine, from the deep-down place where the still small speaks. In that space I find the mountain in my soul where the American prophet from the 1960’s with black skin, sharp intellect and deep spiritual commitment peered over and saw his children not being judged by their skins color. I peer with him as we see children from my home state of Alabama joining hands, white and black, as brothers and sisters. I look over that mountain and I see his dream merging with the future he was robbed of. I see his future becoming our present reality and his dream manifesting in our world, in my world. I see his youngest daughter, Bernice, whose presence has become as familiar as a sister to me, who I have now known longer than he did. I imagine all the hugs we have shared and our melded hands in prayer circles, dinner table conversations and trips over oceans we have journeyed. I am no longer dreaming. I am living the dream a man died to give us and I imagine I’d die for this too.
So, I’m writing this from a place of Awakening. I cannot imagine a world worth living in without more of what I call Awakening; A posture of “welcome”. A curiosity of what more togetherness can usher into our broken world. A bravery to allow people to be where they are, who they are and to meet them there, enter in and stay a while. A humility to elevate someone else’s collective pain, strength, perspective, trauma over my own. A willingness to change my mind when I discover truths about others I didn’t have access to prior to drawing near. A commitment to together as the destination, believing that together is the only place worth going.
This is my disclaimer to anyone reading. I’m still learning, I’m still understanding, I’m still truth seeking and love choosing. This is what Awakening will require of you too. The complexities in our world today are vast, but I am convinced that no policy or law, constitution or creed can take us to a place of collective restoration. The path to a collective restoration happens in the shadows where no applause or public flogging can reach it. When protected within the sacred confines of sincere relationship, the deepest recesses of the heart can be reached and roots can be grafted one into another. This is where collective restoration will begin. We must re graft our roots into the same “system of together”. It’s hard work. It’s intentional work. It’s a work that requires relentless commitment to one another, but the fruit of the re grafted root possess a perfected love worthy of the process. A richer love than you’ve ever known. A deeper love with broader reach and higher levels of understanding. This love will change your life. Literally, it will ask you to go into neighborhoods that scare you, sit in crowds that intimidate you, have conversations that offend you, until you become broken by the realization of the things you never knew you never knew. But brokenness is our pathway to beauty, and the same tools for discovering others are the ones that help us discover ourselves and they point us to our creator. We cannot know ourselves fully in the absence of knowing our creator, and we cannot know our creator fully in the absences of knowing others.