Why History is Important

1 Comment » Written on September 13th, 2016     
Filed under: Testimonies and Stories
Megan Herrold is a pastoral intern at Resurrection Covenant Church in Chicago. She is currently pursuing an MA in Christian Formation at North Park Theological Seminary, and is the seminary’s student representative on the ECC Commission on Biblical Gender Equality.

PuzzleI’ve been thinking a lot about history lately, and the importance of knowing, understanding, and remembering the people and events that have gone before us.

It started last spring when I took a class at North Park seminary on the Old Testament. The class was centered on Genesis-Deuteronomy, and I was struck by the theme of “remember” throughout those books. God tells the Israelites to remember that they were slaves in Egypt and what God did for them there. The phrase “God of your fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” is constantly repeated, and I get the impression that God wants to be understood and known in the context of what God has done. And of course, there’s been a lot of talk about denominational history this year as we’ve been celebrating forty years of ordaining women in the Covenant.

Then I went on the Sankofa journey in July. For those who don’t know, Sankofa is an interactive, cross-racial prayer journey that seeks to help people move toward a righteous response to the social ills related to racism. We toured historic sites of racial violence in U.S. history, as well as places where people are working to undo the present-day effects of discrimination and prejudice.

At the end of the trip, all of us were asked to choose a word that described how we were feeling. For me, that word was “re-formed.” The way that I explain this feeling to people is that with this increased knowledge of my country’s history, I feel like I have a greater understanding of what formed the society that formed me—the society in which I grew up.
The vivid image that I still have in my head is of a Megan-shaped puzzle, where some of the pieces don’t quite fit. But with this increased understanding of my history, God has taken out some of the wrong pieces with the right ones. Or in some cases, the right piece was there, but it was upside down or backwards, so God straightened it out a bit. There are still some mixed-up pieces, and there’s still more work to be done, but overall understanding where I came from—even the negative aspects—has made me feel more complete, more whole.

And part of me is surprised that this sense of spiritual wholeness, these overall positive feelings, could come out of witnessing and remembering such negative events. As a white woman, so much of what I hear in discussions of racism (at least from other white people) revolves around the idea that it’s in the past, we’ve moved beyond it, it’s pointless to keep bringing it up.

First, I don’t believe we’ve moved beyond racism. I don’t think it’s just something that was in the past.

Second, even if that were true, my experience on Sankofa is that when we try to forget our negative history, we do ourselves a disservice. We’re denying ourselves access to a part of who we are, in effect denying ourselves a sense of wholeness.

And third, again even if racism were no longer an issue today, that “past” that we talk about was really not that long ago. Maybe a few decades, at most? That means that there are still plenty of people in our midst who are living with painful memories of violence and loss. When we ignore the negative aspects of our history, we do others a disservice, too. We deny them access to the events that formed them.

That’s the tension I find myself in as I celebrate—remember—our denomination’s four decades of ordaining women. Forty years is not that long; really just a couple of generations. There are still people in our midst with painful memories of what it was like for them to pursue God’s call on their lives. And there are still places were women don’t have full access to all ministry opportunities.

I’m relatively new to the Covenant church; it’s three years this week, my own personal anniversary. I don’t know the history of this denomination, and I don’t know the history of this forty-year anniversary that we’re celebrating. All I know is the present. But I’m starting to feel that knowing a present that is not informed by the past isn’t really knowing the present at all.
My hope and goal this year is to learn more about what went into this decision to ordain women, and how women in our denomination found ways to pursue God’s call even in the midst of human-made barriers. I suppose this feels important for me as a woman, but more than that it feels important for me as a Covenanter. This isn’t women’s history; it’s a story of how women have contributed to our denomination’s history.

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One Response to “Why History is Important”

Megan – I am so thankful for the transformative experiences God has ordained for this part of your journey. Much has been written on the annual meeting where the vote was taken to ordain women. There is also a timeline on the ACCW website that chronicles the history of women in the Covenant’s journey as God has ordained, called and elected them to various offices and places of service. It is a very slow movement in the right direction. We need to be reminded through stories like the one you have shared of God’s vision for his daughters call to be fully engaged in the role of kingdom unfolding. Thanks for posting!

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