Impose or Submit

by Rev. Dr. Erwin Goedicke, written March 5, 2021

A number of years ago, I had a vision – an actual dream from which I awoke with a start and clarity and passion and knew it was from the Lord. I saw myself standing in the pulpit at North Church, looking out at my congregation.  Only, this didn’t look like the church I had been shepherding for over a decade already, with increasingly open spaces in the pews. It was filled!  And it was completely multi-racial!

That vision has animated and driven me over the past twenty years, as I committed myself to the work of racial reconciliation with others throughout the city and cast the same vision to our church.  And there were times I had glimpses of what it might look like and feel like.  After we invited a black church to share space with us, we co-hosted block parties for the community and shared Easter Sunday worship and fellowship together.  And it was glorious!

But just today – today! – I have realized that I had the vision wrong.  (That’s the problem with visions and prophecies and revelations.  We may see them clearly, but we may not understand them correctly.)  What was wrong with my vision is that it was me standing in the pulpit, looking out on a multi-racial congregation, and not me in the pews of a multi-racial church being led by a person of color.  Coming to that understanding is why God gave me this vision without allowing it to come to fruition.    

I still believe the vision of a multi-racial, multi-ethnic, multi-peopled church – church that looks like heaven (Rev. 7:9) – is right.  But it is a vision to which I need to submit, and not a vision I am called to impose.  This is a very hard lesson for a white person to learn; imposing our ideas, setting the agenda, colonizing the world is what we do.  But perhaps we can start by asking our brothers and sisters at Carmel and West Cincinnati and Winton and Third and Kennedy Heights and Bond Hill Presbyterian Churches to teach us.