Catherine Meeks was eager for the weeks ahead last February as she anticipated the spring season launch of a series of programs at the Absalom Jones Episcopal Center for Racial Healing in Atlanta. But then it all stopped on March 12 when its home base, the Atlanta University Center, announced it would close at the end of that day due to the spread of the COVID-19 virus. She discovered herself in a state of paradox – sadness that the fine programming that had taken so long to plan would not go forward, mourning the loss of familiar routine, grieving the thousands of deaths around the nation and the world, worrying about the people whose lives were at risk because of their work – but grateful, on the other hand, for many things as well.
This is some of what she shared Saturday morning with Palmer parishioners as she joined with the parish for a conversation about racial healing. Dr. Meeks, director of the Absalom Jones Center, was supposed to have spoken with us from the Nave at Palmer; instead she led a thoughtful and inspiring hour with us on Zoom. In her left hand, she said, she held her grief; in her right hand, gratitude. Gratitude for the pause in her life, gratitude that she could stay home when her rheumatoid arthritis would put her at risk, thankful for less pollution in the environment because of this pause, and hopeful that our heightened awareness and sympathy for vulnerable people, especially the elderly, will become a permanent change for good in our culture and society. “God can use everything for good…,” she said, “if we let Him.”
At the core of her message was the need for us to do the inner work to examine our values and motivations before we do the outer, activist work, to promote racial healing. Getting angry is fine, she said. Acknowledge it, express it, “do the inner work to understand reality,” she said. “Then get up and do what you have to do…. Do the right thing.” And for real, lasting and sustained change, she said the reflection and action for good must be rooted in the parish. “The first thing is to do ourselves,” she said.
Saturday’s conversation was sponsored by the Palmer Daughters of the King and we hope to have Dr. Meeks visit the parish in person when it is safe to do so. The Daughters are very thankful to Roger Hutchison for his introduction of Dr. Meeks to Palmer and his work in organizing and hosting the meeting. If you’d like to learn more about Dr. Meeks and her work, visit centerforracialhealing.org or look up Absalom Jones Episcopal Center for Racial Healing on facebook.