Vicky Nicholau, who has been doing this for years, welcomed everybody and asked for prayer concerns and praises. I was impressed by how she was able to call almost everybody by name in a room with more than a hundred of our homeless neighbors present. And I was impressed by the diversity of that group: there were black people and white people, old people and young people, men and women and a few I wasn’t sure about, but when I stood to pray I said, “God, there isn’t a person in this room who isn’t precious to you,” and I believed it.
I got the feeling that everybody who was volunteering last night believed it, and that made it possible for our guests to believe it, too. Again, I was impressed by how many people were able to call each other by name, just like they do at Wednesday night church suppers. But this was a Thursday night, and the people in the room didn’t look much like the ones who come on Wednesday. They looked happier, if that’s possible. More grateful. If you had been in that room I think you would have agreed that the Kingdom of Heaven came to Richmond, Virginia, at least for a little while.
I slipped out in time to get to the University of Richmond to hear John Kinney and Ben Campbell speak at the annual Weinstein-Rosenthal Forum on Faith, Ethics, and Global Society. Their topic was: “From Hurt to Healing: Forgiveness and Hope in Metropolitan Richmond.”
Ben talked about the hurt; John talked about the healing.
The way Ben tells the story Richmond has been deeply divided by the issues of race and class almost from the beginning. He talks about Jefferson proclaiming that all men are created equal and Henry saying “Give me liberty or give me death” while Richmond was becoming the largest slave market on the eastern seaboard. He talks about how decisions made in the latter half of the last century bulldozed some of Richmond’s traditionally black neighborhoods and pushed its poorest citizens into ghettos on the other side of the new Interstate.
There was plenty of hurt to talk about last night.
But when John Kinney spoke he said what would get us from hurt to healing was forgiveness of the past and hope for the future. I’ll probably need to save that for my next post because those are huge topics, but I hope you will pause and say a prayer for Richmond today, asking God to forgive us for some of the atrocities committed in the past (and there were atrocities), and to give us hope for a different kind of future.
The prayer itself might be a first step on the road to healing.