JustChurch:  is an open and affirming worshiping community rooted in ancient practices and focused on acts of justice.
JustChurch is the ministering community of Beloved Community Initiative

Join us in person for weekly worship on Saturdays at 5:00pm  
at Trinity Episcopal Church, 320 E. College St., Iowa City.

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Evening Prayer May 28


Worship with JustChurch on Saturday, May 28

Meeting in a different location this week at 5:00pm!
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Eastertide Weekly reading from This Here Flesh

I’m very skeptical of generational curses. I don’t think they mean what we think they mean. We speak of them as if they are inevitable, as if they’ve already latched on to us and our job is to reverse them. I once knew a girl whose parents wouldn’t let her sleep over at someone’s house if their parents were divorced. They talked about it like it was an omen. We think we are inheriting a curse, but really we are inheriting stories, which it is our responsibility to make sense of and lament and rage against and heal from. More often than not, if a curse is awakened, someone roused it. 

For those whose ancestors bore great evil into the world—which may very well be all of us—the curse is only passed as you participate in it. It is our responsibility to know and own the stories that have made us in such a way that we forsake the curse. This requires a sacred humility, for humans quite readily accept their place in the glories of their ancestors but remain woefully unwilling to accept the connection to their ills. But it is precisely our failure to acknowledge the curses we’ve benefited from that keeps us from full liberation. 

A curse is no more inevitable than our liberation. And it is available to each generation in its own way. My ancestors may not have possessed the same freedoms as I do, but who am I to say they were any less liberated? If you take liberation to mean that my ancestors could do everything that white people could do without enduring violence, then maybe. But is this all liberation means? 

Author bell hooks said, “Women’s liberationists, white and black, will always be at odds with one another as long as our idea of liberation is based on having the power white men have. For that power denies unity, denies common connections, and is inherently divisive.” 

In pursuit of liberation, we do not need to pine after the power of our oppressor; we have to long for our own power to be fully realized. We don’t want to steal and dominate someone else’s land; we want agency in reclaiming and establishing our own spaces. We don’t want to silence the voices of our enemies; we want to be able to safely center our own voices and be believed. Liberation recognizes that I won’t get free by anyone else’s bondage. 

I believe my ancestors knew things about freedom I can’t even begin to articulate myself. Maybe liberation is not as linear as we assume. Each generation may seem more liberated, but there are always new forms of bondage—virtue signals, digital radicalization, activism perverted by a disordered appetite for influence. It is much better, then, to learn what freedom sounds like. Just because you’ve found it once doesn’t mean you will never wander again. We must teach our children and our children’s children what it means to be free. What it feels like to be whole. To exhale. And stories are our greatest teachers.

Arthur Riley, Cole. This Here Flesh (pp. 192-194). 

People think liberation is a future unfolding before us. But the path to freedom stretches out in both directions. It is what you’ve inherited, your first and last breath. Walk backward and graze your gramma’s face, unshackle your father from the bathroom floor. Go ahead and cry, flip the table, and then repair it in time for the feast. If it’s freedom you’re after, go marvel at the sky, then look down at your own marvelous hands. Rest your souled body with another sacred body and tell each other the truth: Your dignity cannot be chained.

Arthur Riley, Cole. This Here Flesh (p. 195).

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