By Shakeisha Gray and Devon Stewart
“I can feel it coming in the air tonight. Oh, Lord.”
The fateful words of Phil Collins’ magnum opus seem to ring true throughout the halls of Wingate in recent times, yet the reasoning perhaps seems unclear. Conversations among students have yielded many reasons: the current political climate, the mid-year grind, the second-year-second-semester slump, and the like all seem to gather the most sentiment.
Personally however, we sense that tensions remain concerning the recent general election, and rightfully so. Speaking for ourselves, the 2016 general election was easily the most controversial and divisive election of our lifetimes, all but wrenching the nation in twain. While many Americans have expressed solidarity in the political events that have transpired since the election, the majority of Americans have expressed concern, regardless of affiliation. This sense of mystery and insecurity has seemingly become the social climate within our walls, a place where hope should spring forth, a place where healing should ebb and flow from the epicenter.
Perhaps the last six months have not only challenged the nation’s motivations. Perhaps our religious motivations have been confronted as well.
Perhaps too the institution’s motivations have been challenged.
Pro Humanitate—for humanity—has been the premise and catalyst for the School of Divinity, as part of the University proper. Through this mantra our community can advocate, reconcile with, and empower those who feel voiceless and powerless, serving “the least of these” as Scripture demonstrates. Wake’s motto serves as a constant reminder that ministry exists beyond the church walls, beyond the sacraments; ministry is as simple as an encouraging text message, a hug, a conversation, providing spaces and voices for those we may not agree with.
Speaking of, is it possible that in the backlash to the election we’ve taken away such spaces and silenced such voices in the outcry of the majority?
We are a community of leaders who go out and perform ministry in its many complex and beautiful forms, yet right now we’re struggling to do ministry within and for our own community.
Granted, we each maintain our own social commentary and reservations; surely you do as well. But the gravity of the times suggest that we as a community haven’t fulfilled our obligation to be the “listening ear” that many of our callings require us to be. Just maybe, maybe, we’ve stripped those spaces and opportunities to cultivate fruitful dialogue because we’ve merely listened to argue or respond – and not listened to understand.
Regardless of who you are or what you represent, we laugh, we cry, we triumph, we fail, we worry, we pray—all the same. Our mission remains simple: to be agents of justice, reconciliation, and compassion, to advocate for humanity! But we can’t advocate “for humanity” unless we do our best to acknowledge the “humanity” within our academic, social, and intellectual confines. That means the collective we taking the time to acknowledge the collective you, regardless of what we may stand for. That’s our task. That’s our call.
While we don’t have definitive answers to the original concern, we do have a place to begin: listening. Let us come together, let us listen, let us understand, and most importantly, let us pray for one another. Perhaps that’s the best place to begin anyway.