Community should come together

Published 10:22 pm Tuesday, September 12, 2017

By Jack Alvey Alvey is the rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church

Mort and Judy, a retired couple from southwest Florida, visited St. Paul’s on Sunday after being forced to evacuate their home because of Hurricane Irma. As you might imagine, getting to Selma was quite the ordeal as it took them three days to get here. Once they arrived, however, the couple wondered if they made the right decision to come to Selma.

They weren’t turned off by the several buildings that are in disrepair. They weren’t turned off by the “history” or “reputation” that we carry. Rather, they were surprised by the number of residents in Selma who spoke so negatively about their hometown.

Their perception of Selma changed, however, after visiting St. Paul’s on Sunday. Following worship, Mike and Eddie Joyce Sexton took Mort and Judy out to lunch and then gave them a grand tour of the city. The couple later said, “Visiting Selma will definitely be the bright spot in this whole ordeal.” I am thankful that the couple will have a good story to tell about Selma when they return home. 

Now, I understand there are many items on Selma’s “improve” list. I am aware that education, industry, crime and poverty are serious issues facing our city, and these issues should be addressed. But I am not convinced that these are the real issues holding Selma back. Rather, these are symptoms of a deeper problem.

While I am not a psychologist, I do perceive that Selma needs to experience a deep healing. Selma is a city that has endured much in its long history. Selma is a city with a complicated story. Selma is not your average small town Alabama. Taking an analogy from my friend A.C. Reeves one step further, Selma is like a twelve-layer cake, you might not like some of the layers, but when you eat as a whole, it tastes wonderful.   

The work of healing is not about removing some of the layers of the cake and enjoying only those parts. The work of healing is not about telling one of the cake’s layers, “get your act together” so we can taste better. The work of healing is about being made whole. And we can only be whole if we can come to recognize each layer as essential –– even the less desirable layers.

Another way of thinking about the work of healing is to recognize that God has given us everything we need. There is no reason why Selma shouldn’t thrive again. Like someone who has survived a terrible car accident, healing might take several risky surgeries. However, God has given Selma the instruments that she needs to complete these surgeries –– our churches.

While I don’t know what every church is doing in Selma, I do see in our churches a willingness to promote healing and wholeness in this community. I invite you, therefore, when you pray for Selma, to pray that our churches can come together and be instruments of peace and healing for a city who still has much to give to a world that is hungry for healing and wholeness.