Holiness in our Midst: Session 82

Holiness in our Midst


Story Circle Prompt: Who do you see being a bridge-builder in action? Between what groups? How is this person inspiring you to action?

One of my current inspirations is the Rev. April G. Johnson, Executive Director of Disciples Ministry of Reconciliation from Indianapolis. Rev. Johnson facilitates the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) process of awareness, analysis and action toward healing the fractures in the body of Christ that are caused by systemic racism. While publicizing an upcoming visit, I have been introduced to her experiences and insights. In my own life, she reignited a personal call to tackle social justice and personal issues, when she said: “God doesn’t ask us to agree to disagree. God asks us to love one another. We know that it is hard, which might be why we avoid the work of relationship with people who are not like us. God keeps calling us into opportunities to birth new relationships and new perspectives.”

Rev. Johnson’s career, building bridges between racial and other differences, is connected to her background. She said, “I grew up in the south suburbs of Chicago. My parents moved there on my first birthday. Folding under the pressure of tuition of parochial school for my two oldest siblings, they anticipated a better public-school education for their children in the suburbs. Our subdivision was entirely populated by Black residents. Seeing the disparities in my own education as well as the lack of businesses owned by people who looked like me, propelled my nascent passion to right-align opportunities for all people. I was no young version of Angela Davis in my formative years by far, but the differences simply did not make sense to me and kept me exploring new ways to understand and change a system that excluded and withheld opportunity for ‘some’ people.

I am energized by her willingness to work toward social change. How do you keep from being overwhelmed by current political/racial divides? I asked. Her reply to this question moved me. She said, “Our choices today regarding the divisive rhetoric and tribalism in our current national and global dialogue for me are clear. It is our imperative to affirm each other’s humanity. We have made “othering” an art form. Sadly, when we legislate making people ‘other’ while affording a dominant group access to more resources and a better quality of life than those excluded or impacted by such legislation, we justify racism and other oppressions. I simply find no justification for dehumanization. So, I am not overwhelmed by the ministry and work of changing our churchwide and national narrative of division and devaluing people as a standard. Where I do get overwhelmed, or more accurately exasperated, is by the fear that is generated that halts dialogue that keeps ‘good people’ silent and inactive toward promoting inclusion and human dignity for all. As Christians, God reconciled us to all be in God’s beloved “in” group.  We are all “A-listers,” as annoying as that can be.”

Her vision stretches me to think bigger and bolder. She said, “It is my desire that as a communion we embody this work by turning our outrage into action on behalf of those whose lives and stories are dismissed, distorted and diminished by a narrative of exclusion and American exceptionalism. For those of us who are new to being outraged by racism and oppression, I hope that we can support and mutually develop new ways to be in dialogue and relationship with one another that transforms the way we worship and the way we vote. It is my hope that we become leaders in thought and deed that transform our world into one where exclusion is the exception instead of not the norm.”

At this moment, I anticipate the changes I will make in response to this bridge-building leader.

(Note: The General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada will hold its biennial gathering in Des Moines, July 20 – 24, 2019. Ames First Christian Church will be a host site for worship for General Assembly attendees on Sunday, July 21, where Rev. Johnson will speak.) 



  1. Read the above reflection. In your journal, write about a person you know who models bridge-building between groups or ideologies. How does he/she do this? 


  1.   Read aloud Session LXXXII. 
  2.   Ask each person to answer the Story Circle Prompt. 

[View Past Sessions Here]

Note: Holiness in Our MidstSharing Our Stories to Encourage and Heal is a monthly on-line feature created by Janis Pyle to facilitate sharing of our personal experiences, thoughts, beliefs, and spiritual practices with one another, especially through stories. Barriers are broken down when we begin to see all persons, even those with whom we disagree ideologically, as sacred and constantly attended to by a loving Creator. Each column is accompanied by a “story circle” prompt and study guides for personal and group reflection. To share your stories, contact Hannah Button-Harrison at communications@nplains.org. Janis Pyle can be reached at janispyle@yahoo.com.

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