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A Community’s Discernment

Kittamaqundi Community Church (KC) is engaging in a Spiritual Discernment on Sunday afternoon. The discernment centers on the question: “Is the Holy Spirit calling Kittamaqundi Community to rename our building?”

Over the last year, KC researchers have uncovered historical evidence outlining that the Oliver family was a slaveholding family who owned the property at Oakland, including the Carriage House from 1825-1838. They were one among many slaveholding families to occupy the grounds. A real estate ad from the 1920’s first reveals the name “Oliver’s Carriage House.” There was at least one other building in the area known as “The Carriage House,” and this one needed some distinction. “Oliver’s Carriage House” seemed to stick and it was the name of the building when the early people of KC took over as owners in the early 1970s. While the faith community is known as Kittamaqundi Community Church, to this day the building is known as Oliver’s Carriage House.

Over the course of the last many months, members and friends of KC have been sitting with much complied historical information and considering what it means to have the name of a slaveholder connected with the Carriage House. The congregation had spent time through in advance of its jubilee season of 2019 connecting with the living stones of our building and the ancestral (largely undocumented) history of our grounds.

This jubilee plaque rests on a rock in the church’s Sacred Garden.

Discernment

KC has held to a tradition of spiritual discernment when it comes to the larger questions of the church. The Council calls for a time of gathering information that leads to a time of community meditation. The Council writes, “A KC practice, inspired by our Quaker brothers and sisters, engages us in a community discernment to hear the prompting of the Holy Spirit within our thoughts, our words, our emotions, and our physical sensations.  This session is not a vote, a discussion, a debate, or a decision making time.  This is a time of listening – to ourselves and to each other. A time to feel the Spirit moving in and amongst us as we listen carefully for what calls us forward.  Each person who wishes to speak will have a brief and uninterrupted time to share.”

And so it is that Sunday KC will be gathering prayerfully to discern: “Is the Holy Spirit calling Kittamaqundi Community to rename our building?”

Enabling

I serve as Enabling Minister, the Pastor, of KC. It is long hoped that the Enabling Minister will help the people of KC live into the call of the Spirit on our individual and communal journeys. Often this comes through listening encouragement, a walking alongside as we discover and uncover new things together. We live into our brokenness together, and look to the healing power of the Spirit’s love in our lives. At times, I am more vocal, seeking to be attentive to our spiritual frameworks as a religious community. What do the prophetic voices of the Christian tradition have to share with us as we face the decisions of our day? How do we honor our own legacy as a compassionate and active agent of God’s love?

Here is a pdf link to my sharing on September 6 that centers on the question: why would a spiritual community change the name of its building?

The September 6 Worship Service is available at this time via Facebook.

I point to the transforming biblical witnesses like that of Jacob (Israel) at Beth-el that come with a change from one name to another. I point to the role of spiritual communities to expand love and seek to do no harm to neighbors, especially as we would pursue anti-racism. I lastly point to the role that spiritual communities have in getting into “good trouble,” often as it starts with a the inward work of humble examination and confession.

Going Forward

While I cannot say how the Spirit will lead in discernment, I am encouraged by KC’s willingness to sit with disruptive questions in stretching times. The realities of pandemic and larger unrest of our nation mean that we as a people are uncertain, tired, and holding fears about the time to come. And while it may not feel like the right time for everyone to be holding this space together, we look to the ripeness of every time to pursue the expansion of God’s love through prayerful discernment.

If we were to change the name of the building, it would be but one of our steps on a journey to pursue the work of racial justice. As we would make this change to the inward part of our lives–our name–it would come with the outward invitation to bear public witness to God’s unfolding love in the face of white supremacy. I pray that we continue to seek the path of good trouble in our work together as spiritual community in our neighborhood and larger communities of this world. The present time asks of us a moral courage to live out of the love of Christ through the employ of our resources, the increase of our hearts, and the attentiveness to the legacy of our living stones.

It is a profound gift to serve this community. May God’s joy and justice unfold as we move together on the journey ahead.

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Rev. Claire Matheny View All

Pastor | Kittamaqundi Community Church | Columbia, Maryland

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