A couple of weeks ago I spent an evening watching Lin Manuel Miranda's Broadway musical adapted into a screenplay In the Heights. The heights referring to a neighborhood in Manhattan, Washington Heights. Washington Heights along with the neighborhood Inwood was declared Little Dominican Republic a few years ago due to the population of Dominicans living in the densely populated area. While Lin Manuel Miranda never lived in Washington Heights he was raised in the nearby neighborhood of Inwood.
In the Heights is a beautiful, sometimes heartbreaking, love letter to a neighborhood and the dreams of its' residents. Without getting into the plot of the musical/film the characters deal with the social and economic anxieties of being Latin-x in the 21st century. There is an undercurrent of fear in the motivations of the characters. Fear of failure, fear of losing cultural identity, fear of gentrification, fear of deportation. All of these fears are also intimately entangled with their respective hopes and dreams for themselves, their loved ones, and the neighborhood. A frequent refrain of a matriarch in the neighborhood is Paciencia y Fe (Patience and Faith).
Patience and faith are things we need in abundance in our march toward justice. The dreams and fears of In the Heights characters are remarkably relatable and tangible. How have we as Episcopalians been engaged in the struggle for equality and justice? What are our strengths, weaknesses, and blind-spots as we push for progress? Have we atoned for our collective past mistakes? Is The Episcopal Church honoring socioeconomic justice commitments made during past General Conventions? Are we engaged in charity work or justice work? What responsibilities do we hold in the face of racism, classism, gentrification and xenophobia? All of these questions are complicated and take time to tease out full, honest answers.
We need patience and faith as we seek and examine our traditions, history, and texts for guidance to live into a radically open understanding of Beloved Community. We need patience with our neighbors and ourselves as we get caught up in selfish desires. We need faith to keep us grounded. We need faith to feel God's tug toward justice. We need faithful patience to hold strong to our commitments to alternative economics in a world that seems to be driven by greed. We need patient faithfulness as the world slowly orients itself toward justice due to the pressures of society saying enough.
Patience, faith, and perseverance are not the only ingredients as we strive to live into Becoming Beloved Community but they are critical to the recipe. It is time to hold ourselves, each other and the church accountable. We are all brothers and sisters; it is time to lift each other up instead of tear each other down. It is time to support each others' dreams and live boldly with patience and faith.
It is time to listen to where the Spirit is guiding us!
Steven Simpkins, ENEJ Secretary