Many people have been asking what the role of the church is in what is going on in Ferguson, MO. Clearly this is a very broken community which has been divided along racial lines and two divergent stories of what went on and why it happened.
One of the most important roles the church has to play in this situation is what is called “Healing the Corporate Memory”.
Social memory is that which attaches to membership of certain groups, and manifests itself as collectively held ideas and experiences.
Most churches and local communities face needs for the healing of corporate memory and for increased awareness of corporate responsibility.
The intention is not to recollect the past for the sake of preservation, but to awaken a sense of responsibility for being the body of Christ in that place.
– Esther Reed: The Genesis of Ethics
Examples of what this looks like can be found in the mid-1990’s in South Africa and in the war crimes tribunals for the Balkan Wars. It consists of telling and hearing both sides’ stories and understanding (but not necessarily affirming) both sides’ narratives – and then condemning ALL of the wrong actions that took place and all of the SYSTEMIC wrong that contributed to the situation in the first place.
However, restitution is also a key issue when it comes to healing. If the white community can make efforts towards restitution for prejudice, disdain and lost lives – whether they feel it necessary or not – and if the black community can make efforts towards restitution for the destruction caused by the rioting – it will make major headway towards forgiveness, healing the corporate memory and creating a new narrative for the whole community – both black and white – to share.
I believe it is the place of the church to step across racial lines, link arms and lead the way in this.