is God’s work. We have the opportunity to open ourselves to God’s
healing power. The Gospels are filled with stories of people who
ardently turned to Jesus for healing. We learn about the nature of
healing from these Gospel stories: God’s healing power is not alien to
our lives, it is within us, though largely unrecognized; we play an
important part in each other’s healing; concomitantly we can also be
barriers to the healing of others; forgiveness is closely connected to
healing, as is truth; a life of freedom, gratitude, and joy lies on the
other side of healing.
The traumas of our constituent communities in the Diocese of California
are not unique to us. Efforts at healing and reconciliation too have
sprung up within the Church and civil society in many places beyond
South Africa (Greensboro, North Carolina, for instance formed its own
Truth and Reconciliation Committee, and the Episcopal Diocese of North
Carolina took an active part in the city’s reconciliation work.). The
Diocese of California and the Bay Area, however, have a history of
social and technical innovation that benefits its own citizens and the
country, in the sense of being an avant garde.
Based on our own work in the Beloved Community visioning process, our
observation of the history and current condition of multiculturalism in
the diocese, including an awareness of the importance of the dominant
culture as an affected group within what is understood as
multiculturalism, I have begun conversations with Fr. Michael Lapsley to
invite his work in healing of memories into the Diocese of California as
The 20th Century brought a shift in human consciousness that can be
traced to dramatic changes in population levels and technology.
Spiritually the experiences of World Wars I and II, and the Holocaust,
and genocides in Armenia, Cambodia, and Rwanda, to name the most
notorious examples led to unique responses of grace and compassion,
embodied in efforts at reconciliation, most famously the Truth and
Reconciliation Committee headed by Archbishop Desmond Tutu in South
Michael Lapsley (shown here with Archbishop Desmond Tutu) extended
the work of the TRC by creating the Institute for Healing of Memories.
People in churches and secular non-profits across the United States have
grasped the importance of Fr. Lapsley’s work, and invited him and his
co-workers into a variety of other situations where serious trauma
hampers human life: soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan;
immigrants who have fled abject poverty and repression; prisoners
re-entering the world outside prison to name several examples.
Please see this
Wikipedia article on Fr. Lapsley; he is an
international hero in human rights movements, having been a chaplain to
the ANC during the anti-apartheid struggles in South Africa, and is an
Anglican priest and member of the monastic order Society for Sacred
The Diocese of California has sustained and continues to experience
afresh serious traumas throughout its discernible sub-groups. Immigrants
face the break-up of families, economic disaster, and danger associated
with deportation. The LGBT community lives with the recent and ongoing
devastation of the AIDS pandemic whose originating epicenter was San
Francisco, and the reality of hate crimes perpetuated against gays in
this country and worldwide. The Afro-Anglican community lives with the
history of 400 years of slavery and the “traces of the trade” present in
current patterns of privilege and power. Asian communities have
experienced internship, blatant racism within their own Church, and
within civil society economic disparity and racially-motivated violence.
Women still experience wage disparity and unequal access to jobs and
promotions, and were recognized as full voting citizens less than a
One example of the traumas our various communities have sustained is the
sale by the Diocese of the church buildings of both True Sunshine, San
Francisco and Our Saviour, Oakland, historic, faithful Chinese-America
parishes. The sense of betrayal felt by these communities is a wound
that has not healed.
Many thoughtful, effortful attempts to “grow” the Church within its
multicultural communities and to extend the Church to multicultural
communities outside the Church have been sponsored within the Diocese of
California. Two enduring factors have marred these efforts: the dominant
culture has been largely absent from them; the multicultural communities
have not been present to one another’s challenges and suffering.
Lapsley and an associate from the
Healing of Memories will
fly to San Francisco from South Africa on November 17. On November 18,
19, and 20 Fr. Lapsley will hold three session, in different places in
the diocese on each evening or day, to introduce the diocese to his work
in the healing of memories. These events will not be formal healing of
memories workshops, but will prepare the ground for a series of healing
of memory workshops to be held in the diocese throughout 2011.
The workshops in 2011 will be carefully planned to respond to the needs
of our constituent communities within the Diocese of California. For
instance, we recognize that within the broad spectrum of communities
designated Latino/Latina there are indigenous peoples, who have often
been the objects of state-sponsored violence in their countries of
origin – given their different cultures, languages, and histories of
trauma, how would the Healing of Memories workshops need to be
articulated to be of the most use to these people?
of facilitators with particular language fluency and cultural knowledge,
and people with counseling and chaplaincy skills will join the Institute
for Healing of Memories staff for the various 2011 workshops, with the
teams changing according who is participating.
In early 2012 we will take stock of where we are, seeking to appreciate
the healing work God has given us in 2011. On the basis of our
understanding of our healing, our changed self-understanding, we will
build a description of the multicultural work going forward, including a
job description for a multicultural staff officer on the team at
It is my hope that the Diocese of California, as a family, a beloved
community, will open itself to God’s healing power. I hope this for our
own sake, for the sake of the many people with whom we live in the Bay
Area who long for grace and peace, who long for God in their lives, and
for the many who look to our diocese and our state for leadership.