The November 23 issue of Time magazine arrived in the mail. On the front cover: On the night of June 17, a gunman opened fire in the basement of a church in Charleston. Nine people died. Five survived. What It Takes to Forgive a Killer. Survivors and families tell their stories.
Inside, on pages 42-68, writer David Von Drehle with Jay Newton-Small and Maya Rhodan, and photographer Deana Lawson share, with sensitivity and care, vignettes and portraits from the lives of the dead, recounts of ongoing grieving by their families, and testaments of the peace of forgiveness and the power of anger and resentment.
One essay arrests my attention, perhaps because it addresses an issue I oft ponder: Searching for signs of a change in Charleston by John Huey. I have believed for quite a while that as institutional slavery was so key an element of the economic, political, and social foundation of America that racism remains an indelible and virulent strand in our national DNA. We, Americans, seemingly continue to teach and to learn to judge one another as “the other” based, in tenacious opposition to the ardent plea of Martin Luther King, Jr., not on the content of one’s character, but rather by the color of one’s skin. Huey, responding to his own question about meaningful change, answers “yes and no.”
As I have poured, prayed over these pages, I continue to dream of change. It is time. Long past time. Out of the depths of my hurt at what I still see and from the heights of my hope for what I long to behold, I recall and share a prayer I wrote some years ago:
O Gracious God, source and substance of light and liberty, in whom no dungeon-darkness dwells, you made yourself known to Hagar, a slave, when she was rejected by human hearts and, redeemed by your hand, you showered the succor of your mercy and grace upon her. For that she called you El-roi, God of seeing. By your Self-same Spirit, O God, pour upon us that gift of sight that we may be liberated from our darkness of ignorance and fear through which we reject others who appear and who are other than we. In your sight, may we see the better and brighter horizons of hope of reconciliation, and of peace among all peoples. This we ask in faithfulness by the favor of Jesus Christ, another rejected by human hearts and redeemed by your hand, who is our Liberator. Amen.
 Race and Prayer, Collected Voices, Many Dreams, Malcolm Boyd and Chester L. Talton, editors, Morehouse Publishing, 2003, page 150