The Rev. Anthony C. Estes has been providing closing reflections for our Deep River series this year. Over the course of five weeks, we explored the power of African American Art Songs, a musical genre that is unfamiliar to many. Each program was a mixture of musical performance, artists in conversation, and small group discussion. At the end of each session, the group would reconvene for Pastor Anthony’s closing remarks and offering of prayer. Here are his words from March 24th, 2021.
Closing Reflection offered by Rev. Anthony C. Estes
I am a man with dual loyalties. I love the country where I live. It is flawed. It is the cultured hell that tests my youth. But perhaps as James Baldwin once said, I criticize it because I love this country.
I love my home country too, the place where I’m from. It is the place where pilgrims go at the end of their journeying. I don’t have to be an activist there, and there is no king or system that needs to be deposed. A realm that knows no bounds.
Sometimes, my loyalties are perfectly in sync with one another, and sometimes they are not. Sometimes the systems and experiences in the country where I live crucify the king of my pilgrim home. And the more I want him to resist and terrify and jeer and resist, the more he seems to remain silent. Maybe his silence is deafening or something, and sometimes I don’t want to hear it.
The country where I live has wonderful qualities but a past that is mired in the trafficked dust of other countries. It is quite literally, a pilgrim land. But thankfully, there are fellow travelers on it, just trying to get home.
Sometimes we walk together in silence. Other times we cry. Sometimes we sing. We keep each other company along the way. And God walks with us. And our journey is to God. And the more we draw closer to God and the country of our common home, the more the country in which we live, with all its wonders fade into the background of time. And all we can see and hear is the God who walks with us. The God to whom we are headed. To the land where we are no longer pilgrims but children. And the songs we sing to pass the time.
Dear Lord, thank you for calling us home from anger, hatred, and apathy. Thank you for the homing beacon that are the words and melodies of the artisans who have journeyed with us during this season of Deep River. Help us to continually find our way back to our home country in you. Amen.