Embodying Truth on the Road to Racial Reconciliation

Embodying Truth on the Road to Racial Reconciliation

This article is by Corrie Cabes, recent graduate of the Seminary of the Southwest. She will be ordained a priest Monday, June 29, at All Saints’, Fort Worth.


When we are younger, we learn that telling the truth is important. It matters at home, at school, and with our friends. We become a person of trust when we tell the truth. But what do we do when the truth is ugly? Or it makes us uncomfortable? What if telling the truth is about confronting the ways we are implicitly participating, and bound in the web of racism?

It has become clear to me, after visiting Alabama this past summer and participating in the Jonathan Daniels Pilgrimage with faculty and students from Seminary of the Southwest, that we are called to tell the truth. I have to tell the truth about all the ways I have been blind to the marginalized. I have to tell the truth about the ways I continue to benefit from a system of injustice. I have to tell the truth about those who have died and continue to suffer from fear, ignorance, and hate. I have to acknowledge that I fail to see the image of Christ in others at times. I have to tell the truth.

Telling the truth is a crucial part of the reconciling work of Christ. As Bishop Mayer expressed at the 2020 Leadership Training Day at Trinity Episcopal Church, “Jesus Christ did not come here just to die.” When we see Christ’s work as unfolding throughout Creation, over time, in the incarnation of Jesus, and continuing to radiate in all things, we see that we are also embedded with Christ, called to participate in the holy work of repair, restoration, and reconciliation of the kingdom of God.

Finding a way to amplify this “embeddedness” was an important goal of the community initiated eucharist I helped plan at Seminary of the Southwest with fellow senior seminarian Drew Brislin, from the Diocese of Alabama. In planning the service, we wanted to offer stations that traced the life of seminarian Jonathan Daniels and civil rights workers of the 1960’s as they worked to register black citizens to vote. We wanted to plan stations that included the physicality of civil rights work during that time: for Jonathan and others that listened to the call of the Spirit to come to Alabama, how they walked, marched, and protested alongside the marginalized, how their bodies experienced imprisonment, suffering, and for some, death. These prayer stations offered a starting point for worshippers to physically embodying the work we are called to today.

The Prayers of the People were adapted from Dismantling Racism: “The Task of the People of God” Leaders Manual by Mary S. Webber. These prayers call upon us to bodily engage in the work of truth telling:

Intercessor: For ears to hear stereotyping in church and community, in our national life and in our local life, and the courage to name it,
People: We pray to you, O God.

Intercessor: For eyes to see exclusion in our communities and churches and for the resolve to confront it,
People: We pray to you, O God.

Intercessor: For minds to address what the conscience knows,
People: We pray to you, O God.

Intercessor: For hearts freed of cynicism and despair, and renewed with hope,
People: We pray to you, O God.

Prayerfully activating our bodies does not require extensive preparedness or education and is not exclusive to the able bodied. These prayers simply remind us that the Creator gives us bodies to do God’s work of love. We must also remember that the Holy Spirit accompanies us, and Jesus has shown us that love is the way. The final prayer calls us all to live with faith that acts on the “certainty of your love for all, and your desire that we honor our differences and live in harmony.” Our bodies are the physical expressions of the Creator’s love; a love woven into all people. To have a body is to be loved into existence. When we encounter someone, we are seeing the handiwork of God.

During the worship service, it was important to name the martyrs of Alabama from that time as part of the remembering of people, of bodies dying while doing God’s work.  Some were able to be identified by names, ages, and the places where they died. However, prayers were also offered up for those martyrs known only to God; bodies forgotten to innately possess God’s image and love.

The Alabama Martyrs
Elmore Bolling, December 4, 1947, martyred in Lowndesboro, AL
Willie Edwards, Jr., January 23, 1957, martyred in Montgomery, AL
William Lewis Moore, April 23, 1963, martyred in Attalla, AL
Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson, Cynthia Wesley, September 15, 1963, martyred in Birmingham, AL
Virgil Lamar Ware, September 15, l963, martyred in Birmingham, AL
Johnny Robinson, September 15, 1963, martyred in Birmingham, AL
Jimmie Lee Jackson, February 26, 1965, martyred in Marion, AL
Viola Greg Liuzzo, March 25, 1965, martyred near Lowndesboro, AL
Jonathan Myrick Daniels, August 20, 1965, martyred in Hayneville, AL
The Rev. James Reeb, September 11, 1965, martyred in Selma, AL
Willie Brewster, September 18, l965, martyred in Anniston, AL
Samuel Leamon Younge, Jr., January 3, 1966, martyred in Tuskegee, AL
And those known only to God.

The Eucharist featured the Lutheran ELW hymn #710 “Let Streams of Living Justice” by William Whitla:

Verse 4:

Your city’s built for music: we are the stones you seek.
Your harmony is language. We are the words you speak.
Our faith we find in service, our hope in other’s dreams.
Our love in hand of neighbour. Our homeland brightly gleams.
Inscribe our hearts with justice, your way – the path untried:
Your truth – the heart of stranger, your life – the Crucified.

These words remind us that we are God’s agents in this world, with hearts “inscribed” with God’s justice. Simply put, we are made for this work.  When it might be easy to become overwhelmed with what we see on the news, or when we are afraid to do or say the wrong thing, it is in these moments that we find our opportunities.

One such opportunity that I engaged was the use of “small experiments.” Dr. Steven Tomlinson, associate professor of Leadership and Administration encourages students at Seminary of the Southwest to try something different in daily life, but on a smaller scale, as a discernment tool for ongoing self-reflection and action. After participating in the worship service, I felt particularly called to a small experiment that required me to engage my eyes, to try to see what God sees when encountering people. I am trying something new, by actively and prayerfully “seeing” people. It is easy to get caught up in where I am going, and what I am doing, and pass by people without a nod, or a “hello.” This is small work, but I am trying my best to acknowledge and “see” everyone I can. With each person I see, I think to myself: “Beloved Because.” What I mean by “Beloved Because” is that each person is worthy of love because God created them out of love. I have already seen a ripple effect of smiles, surprises (in a good way), and as a result, I am seen as well.  Sometimes being engaged in the work of reconciliation starts small, but is found in prayer, through listening to the Spirit, and responding to the daily gifts that God gives us.

I am inspired by the work of people coming together; small ideas expanding into much more. I am proud to say that the Seminary of the Southwest is deeply committed to racial reconciliation and has partnered with the Episcopal Diocese of Texas, presenting a Missionary Vision for Racial Justice Initiative, a $13 million initiative including scholarships for seminarians of color and reconciliation projects.

I am excited to be returning to the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth after graduation in May. My desire is to be a part of the good work the diocese is doing, including the commitment to “Becoming the Beloved Community” a long term covenant towards racial reconciliation including financial and formation engagement.

I am reminded of Ecclesiastes 3:1, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.” This is the time for us to remember who we are created to be, divinely crafted by a loving God, whose love is not exclusive. Perhaps this is also the time for small experiments of our own. Just as we are all created uniquely, we have work that we are especially equipped to do. We may be joyfully surprised at a small change we are willing to try for a season. Maybe we will recognize that something we are already doing is chipping away at hurt and division. We can then build upon it or invite others to join in.  In all that we do, may we embody truth, see the divine in every person, and give thanks that God refuses to rest until all creation is seen and known as “Beloved Because.”