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A Lenten Gift from Duke Chapel

February 19, 2013

50th_logo2013 commemorates 50 years of black students at Duke University, and Duke Chapel has released an excellent Lenten booklet to receive this moment in a deeply Christian way.  There are numerous contributors from the University, city, and state (I was honored to contribute).  While I highly recommend this booklet for Duke and Durham-related folks, I hope others take a look at it as a way of learning to practice lament in the concreteness of our own institutions and communities.  Luke Powery states the challenge well in the booklet’s introduction (Powery arrived this academic year as Duke’s first African-American Dean of the Chapel):

“As a commemoration, [the 50th anniversary] provides an opportunity for all of us to remember. Remembering is a wise practice and yet memory can be complicated due to amnesia or distorted and selective memory. While this commemoration most certainly is an occasion for celebration, we should also be aware that this commemoration provides an opportunity for lamentation as well. Some people may find celebration without an acknowledgment of the struggle and suffering involved in desegregation to be a diminishment of the full story of the Civil Rights movement and Duke’s own history. Thus, in remembering the past, we are reminded that racial identity and other forms of human differences remain a source of devaluation and marginalization in the present, despite the progress of recent decades.

“Because Duke University Chapel is a ministry of truth, justice, and reconciliation, this booklet of Lenten reflections is an attempt to foster these virtues at an important moment in Duke history. Lent is a season of penitence and reflection when Christians journey deeply into the heart of their lives and communities to recognize the depth of their estrangement from God and each other; it consists of the 40 days prior to Easter Sunday. The convergence of liturgical time with historical time seems to be an appropriate occasion in the midst of the University’s commemoration to pay deliberate attention to the testimonies and reflections of a variety of voices and to make space for repentance, confession, lament, and hope as we remember the past in an attempt to re-member the present and future.”

About the Author:  Chris Rice is Director of the  Center for Reconciliation at Duke Divinity School. He is author of Reconciling All Things, Grace Matters, and More Than Equals. He writes at the blog Reconcilers.

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