“Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.”
As a born traveler, I love the novelty of discovering a familiar thing in a new setting. And what’s more familiar than a white clapboard church building on the town green? On my time away from the pulpit I often go for long drives in the hill country around my home in central Massachusetts to find churches.
On a recent drive I discovered a new New England town: picturesque and postcard-ready. I got out of my car and immediately started taking pictures. This town was gorgeous but strangely desolate. I was the only person around. I walked over to the church and took pictures of the exterior, all the windows, the doors, the graceful portico. And then I thought, "Wouldn't it be nice to take pictures of the inside?” I just needed to find the right door; there might be someone inside. Alas, all the doors were locked.
As I walked away, I noticed that I was no longer alone: there were now two police cars parked behind mine. My first thought was, “Is this the welcome committee?” I felt a sense of worry and I wondered if someone behind a window, seeing a black man poking around a church, felt the need to report a suspicious person to the police. The police officers said nothing, nor did I. I walked away and sat in the Common. After a short while they drove off. I can’t know for sure that they came out to surveil me, but it sure felt that way... and that thought left a bad taste in my mouth for the town.
We have 312 towns in Massachusetts alone and I'm not going to let racism stop me from seeing as many of them as I can. I'm not going to let the perceptions of others hinder me from being myself, and from exploring the beauty of other places.
God of the open road and the open heart, thank you for your protections and blessings that have brought us this far. The road is long, and there are many troubles and tribulations in it. But you are just and loving, so guide us in the way of love and justice. Amen.