Recently, the VABSMB and St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church have started praying Compline and the Canon of Racial Reconciliation on Wednesday evenings at 6:30 pm. A half hour of prayer is not the same as getting out in the streets to protest, or lobbying a legislature. While no town is perfect, Williamsburg’s racial climate is milder than many other places in the state and nation.
But, our town does have the oldest history of class and race divisions in the nation. English colonist committed genocide against local native people about a decade before the first African indentured servants arrived in nearby Jamestown. After two failed insurrections, the remaining Powhatan tribes were removed from the Virginia Peninsula in 1645. Twenty to thirty years later, the colonial government made laws restricting the mobility of free blacks and establishing chattel slavery based on skin color. Between the end of Reconstruction up until the Civil Rights Movement, Williamsburg practiced the same patterns of racial segregation as any other southern town. Perhaps because of the college community, nearby military bases, and tourism, the city didn’t have as many newsworthy of conflicts between blacks and whites as other places. Even today, it is easy for people in the area to be complacent about racial issues and point a finger at what we see on TV.
Complacency is perhaps the best weapon Satan has against individuals and communities. We become too comfortable with the way things are and don’t seek any improvements to our condition. This makes us vulnerable either to a sudden incident which throws us into active responses, or a consistent rot which makes us even more vulnerable to an incident. I hold nothing against organizations that seek cures for conflicts and injustice. But, where it is possible, taking ounces of prevention may prove more effective than having to take pounds of correction to heal a major breach of the peace.
Consistency in pursuing the presence of God is the best weapon against spiritual complacency. Many an ancient Church father and mother has recommended that we take small and meaningful steps toward the healing of our souls in prayer and reading the scriptures and other holy writings. Divisions of race and class weren’t created in a few days, nor will anyone be able to solve them quickly. But if we are persistent in taking small doses of a medicine of reconciliation, we can show ourselves to be an example of the kingdom of God where all of the flowers in His garden can dwell in love for Christ and each other.
So, we offer the consistent medicine of prayer. The Canon for Racial Reconciliation was written by Dr. Carla Thomas, one of the early members of the Brotherhood of St. Moses the Black and an Orthodox parish in Aniston Alabama. The prayer addresses the wounds of division and the healing balm of seeking and living in the presence of God. The location is the Orthodox Church where (despite the parish’s ethnic heritage) that has it roots in Africa and the Middle East as well as Eastern Europe dating back to 33 AD.
We invite people to pray with us no matter what denomination or religion you may practice. The church holds Bible Study at 7 pm following the prayers. Those who wish to stay may do so.