Hey, I’m Liz. Originally from southeast Michigan, I graduated in May from Wellesley College and have spent the past four months settling into my life here in Carrboro. Between my work at Rural Advancement Foundation International, building my intentional community through delicious food and deep conversation, and diving into my spiritual community through Eno River Unitarian Universalist Fellowship where I sing in the Beloved Community Chorus, I’ve been keeping pretty busy. Which is why I was so grateful recently to have the change of pace provided by our incredible retreat to Washington DC at the beginning of December.
After taking the 6 hour Megabus up to DC and navigating the Metro we arrived at the Pilgrimage, a service-learning hostel in Dupont Circle and our temporary home for the weekend. Once we were settled in we headed out for dinner at Potters House, our first introduction to the many amazing programs connected to Church of the Savior we would see over the next couple days. In addition to serving amazing food (the pupusas were a hit for the whole group), Potters House had a selection of radical, justice-oriented books I could have easily been lost in for days as well as serving as a community space. We were able to hear more about the model put forward by Church of the Savior, where they have taken a radical approach to church structure that puts their “missions” at that forefront and constantly looks to find ways that they can all be called into creating justice in the world and use the gifts they each have. Hearing about this brought clarity to some of the remaining questions I had on the servant leadership model, seeing it as a way to connect the inward and outward aspects of my spiritual life. We saw these ideas in action in our visits to Jubilee Jumpstart Preschool and the Sitar Arts Center, both of which are making high quality programs for children accessible to all families. Across town, we visited the Episcopal Public Policy Center and learned what the hard choices and deep relationship building of advocacy on the Hill looks like.
Despite how glad I was to see everything in DC, by far the most beautiful and difficult part was our visit to the Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture. It was clear from the beginning that to really do justice to the museum would take multiple days, so I decided my experience of it would just be to take in what I can and try to see all I could. Travelling through that building from the bottom up is a journey through some of the deepest pain and cruelty inflicted in this country up through the incredible work of the activists, artists, athletes, and others who have shaped many of the best parts of the world we live in today. I was struck by how much of what I saw there was missing from the narratives we learn in history class, as well as by how much of it resonated with the rest of what we’d learned over the trip. The work of prophetic leaders who are called to use their gifts happens in the powerful words of the civil rights leaders shown in the history galleries and in the celebrations of the artists shown in the music galleries and in the quiet ways of the teachers we met at the preschool the day before – all ways people are working towards a better future.
Leaving DC, I’m facing against the question of how I can reflect this in my own life. Hopefully, this year will help me better identify my gifts so I can find my place within the tapestry of ways we build the world we want to live in.