Last Sunday afternoon, I attended a Memorial Service for Archbishop Desmond Tutu at St. John the Divine. I felt a connection with “the Arch,” as he was affectionately known, having assisted him at the altar when he visited Harvard Divinity School in 2002. On Sunday, I felt like our Church was doing something it really knows how to do: lift up a life, the whole life of a person, and to remember that individual before God and those present in a way both gracious and true. In this case, a globally recognized Anglican Bishop, who absolutely loved life and put a high value on human life to the point that he was willing to risk his own in the fight against apartheid in South Africa. It’s brilliant to belong to the same worldwide Anglican Communion that raises up Desmond Tutu.

On Wednesday night, I attended the REPAIR meeting which explored the life and legacy of the Rev. Dr. Pauli Murray, the first black woman to be ordained in the Episcopal Church. She/he was a trailblazer in so many ways, not least as a lawyer framing the arguments for equal Constitutional Rights for Black Americans that led to the Civil Rights Movement, public school desegregation, women’s rights in the workplace, and an extension of rights to LGBTQ+ people based on Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. She/he, like Desmond Tutu, believed in the value of human life and was willing to organize her/their whole life around fighting for human rights. Again, it’s brilliant to belong to the same Episcopal Church that raised up Pauli Murray.

As an institution, the Episcopal Church has its “original sins” to atone for but also much to commend, as it gives expression to God’s desire for greater racial equity and inclusion. During this Black History Month, let us continue to celebrate and center the ways in which our denomination does the work of the Gospel at the international, national and local levels.

Onward as the Rainbow People of God,