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Carol Hallman: History matters

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The Rev. Carol Hallman is pastor of First United Church of Christ of Salisbury.

By the Rev. Carol Hallman
Special to the Salisbury Post

History matters. Stories matter.

Each year at Passover, our Jewish brothers and sisters gather to remember. They gather to remember the exodus. Scripture, a scripture which we Christians share, tells them to remember to share with their children the story of the past.

History matters. As an undergraduate, I remember one of my history professors stating this about the importance of history. If we don’t remember the past, we are bound to repeat it.

This Sunday, we have the opportunity to gather to remember a very painful period of our collective history. And yet while that history may be collective, our stories about it are most likely not. For some people, this is new information that lynchings occurred here in Salisbury, while for others this is part of the story that has been handed down from generation to generation.

Why are we taking time to remember these very painful events? Why can’t we just keep them buried in the past?

As a people of faith, we are called to remember, to learn from the past and to find paths of healing and wholeness along the way. To have a shared vision of the future, we need to confront the ugliness of our past.

We know from psychological research the impact trauma has on the psyche of individuals and, in this case, our nation. If we don’t face the trauma then healing may not happen and what we find is that things like sexual abuse become generational within families. Or someone with unresolved trauma issues never fully becomes who they were created to be.

To find a path forward, sometimes we have to take a step back. Think about how long our ancestors wandered in the wilderness until they could finally enter the land. When they forgot their past, when they forgot God, scripture tells us that they often fell into wars and worshiping idols.

Ann Holmes Redding and Pat Russell in their curriculum guide, “Revisiting the History of Enslavement,” suggest that the process of transformation begins with an understanding of what happened or awareness, and history provides us with that awareness, as we learn the multifaceted stories that have been told.

They write:

“The history often has to be uncovered, inaccuracies, myths and lies need to be identified and because it relates to a societal event, a number of people from the different groups involved in the history are required to research and recount it. . . Learning and understanding what actually happened from the perspectives of the dominant group and those on the “margin” is a vital step in dealing with the ramifications of historical events. … When history from all perspectives is not conveyed, it leaves people out.”

In order to come together into a shared future, we are called to share our stories. To listen to each other, to hear about the trauma, to acknowledge the pain and suffering on all sides.

The topic of race and racism is one of the most difficult topics to address in our society today. Yet when we continue to try to bury the past, it finds ways of erupting in the present.

As people of faith, I believe we are called to a ministry of healing and reconciliation. To do that, we are called to remember, to share our stories.

This Sunday, we have an opportunity to participate in a journey towards healing and wholeness as people of Salisbury. We will remember the murder of a family and the response of the crowds through the lynchings of three suspects who were never tried nor convicted. We will begin the afternoon at 2 p.m. at the Civic Center and then move to North Long and Gillespie streets at 5 p.m.

May this be a beginning of discerning a shared vision of a just and peace filled future for all people.

The Rev. Carol Hallman is pastor of First United Church of Christ in Salisbury.

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