Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The H Corridor

A statement in the newest issue of Time Magazine, the June 1 issue, caught my attention today. The article is about the large wall that is being constructed on the edge of Jerusalem, separating Palestinians from Israelis. The wall is offensive and cruel to many people, separating families and businesses and livelihood. Still, the people who find the wall offensive are finding a way to change the wall. Many people are writing their own message on the wall, covering the wall with graffiti. One of the graffiti artists is quoted in the article. Faris Arouri says, "'To resist something, sometimes you have to interact with it'" (June 1, Time, page 6).

To resist something, sometimes you have to interact with it.

I read this statement over and over and over again this morning, trying to discern its full meaning. My mind then turned to a lecture I heard last week at the Festival of Homiletics.

On Tuesday, Tom Long, professor of preaching at the Candler School of Theology at Emory University, spoke. Dr. Long used Grady Memorial Hospital as one of the illustrations for his lecture. Grady Hospital was founded in 1890. It moved locations three times before reaching its current location. When the current facility was built in 1945, it was built as a segregated facility. Wings A and B, which faced the city, were built to serve white patients. Wings C and D, which faced the opposite direction, were built for black patients. The four wings were joined together by Wing E, a hallway connecting all four wings, forming a structure in the design of a large H. As a result of the two very separate sides, many people still refer to the hospital as "The Gradys." There were two distinct areas joined together by one hallway - a hallway that spoke volumes.

While many people have probably not thought much about that hallway, Tom Long explained how that hallway spoke of a vision - a dream for a different day. That hallway brought together that which had been separated as blacks and whites had to travel the hallway together. Wing E was shared by all people. The people who drew the plans for Grady Hospital knew that a collision was coming - a new day would dawn. The middle hallway, Wing E, demonstrated what was possible - it was a powerful interaction with walls of separation.

I talked about the Grady Hospital illustration often last week with my two roommates for the week, especially my dear colleague, Laurie who is the pastor of St. Luke's UMC in Columbus, Ohio. Laurie challenged me to apply my appreciation of Wing E, the H Corridor, to a current area of criticism I have for our church.

You see, I have long felt that our United Methodist Church's communication slogan, "Open Hearts, Open Minds and Open Doors" was filled with hypocrisy - a bunch of baloney. Too often, it has seemed as though the people who have this slogan printed on their business cards are the people who are fighting to keep our doors closed instead of opened to all people. Too often it seems as though the churches that are hanging banners broadcasting an "open" message are not all that open, at least in my eyes. I told Laurie last week how this slogan is a "bunch of B.S." But Laurie pushed me to think differently.

She explained how when the "Open Hearts" media campaign was first introduced that many people fought against it. Many people worked tirelessly to defeat it. The slogan was too open for many people in our denomination, and many people were not willing to open the doors that far. Still, the media campaign won approval. For many years now, the United Methodist Church has been proudly proclaiming that we are a church with "Open Hearts, Open Minds and Open Doors." It is a prophetic statement. It is a beautiful reality to live into - being a people whose hearts and minds and doors are open to all.

And while we are not there yet in all churches - perhaps the people behind this media campaign know a thing or two. Perhaps they are right. Perhaps if enough churches start proudly using and proclaiming this slogan then our hearts, minds and doors will be opened - further, wider, more gracefully and lovingly.

In the meantime, perhaps I need to open my mind a little - to what this slogan really means and the story behind it. Perhaps I need to interact more with that which I have been resisting for too long.

Thank you, Laurie, for your wisdom.

1 comment:

Jerry Roberson said...

For me, the "Open" statement used within our denomination has been very positive. Rather than being hypocritical in the present, I've seen it as a challenge to be more Christ-like toward a better, more welcoming future. I was very impacted by some of those "Open" ads during the initial campaign ... particularly the one where the businessman stops to interact with the homeless man, rather than just passing by or just throwing pocketchange his way.

Yes, it is easy to be closed and only inward-focussed as a church. However, we must challenge ourselves toward higher ideals ... even if we are not there yet.