Friday, June 04, 2010

Mirror To The Church

Yesterday I received a package of books from my cousin Joel.  One of the books caught my immediate attention - Mirror To the Church; Resurrecting Faith after Genocide in Rwanda.  The book is by Emmanuel Katongole, a Catholic priest of the Kampala Archdiocese, Uganda, and an associate professor of theology at Duke Divinity School.  Katongole is helped in the writing by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, however it is chiefly Katongole's voice that comes through in the story.

While the subtitle speaks of reconstructing faith after an event, the reader finds much of the work is focused on describing the stories that led Rwanda to the place where 800,000 people were murdered by their neighbors, friends, relatives, fellow church members in the country of Rwanda.  In the last chapter Katongole will write, "Any resurrection of the church as the body of Christ must begin with lament, which is an honest look at the brokenness of the church.  Without lament we move on too quickly to reconstruction. (p.164)" 

Katongole says for resurrection we must have forgiveness and a truthful memory, "including the honest admission of failure."  This honest confession isn't meant to "hang onto their mummified skeletons because we are afraid of the unknown future. (p.165)"  "But lament brings us to the breaking point . . . [so that] even in the midst of what appears to be dead, God can issue a miracle of resurrection. (p.165-168)"

Katongole asks for the people of God to be given to Memory, Mirror and Mission.  (p.169)
  • "Memory - as we take seriously the history of Rwanda and the tragic failure of the church to offer a baptism that ran deeper than tribalism." Much of the book describes places and people who did not stand up to the genocide, many contributed to killing.   
  • "Mirror - as we see in this story how resurrection happens in fresh interruptions of the so-called natural identities and patterns of life that we have assumed to be normal."  Katongole describes four biblical stories, three of which he asserts fall short of interrupting the flow of the kingdoms of this world and which tend to be the ways in which most of the church does its work.  The fourth story is the story of Mary who anoints Jesus for his burial before he stands before Pilate.  Mary interrupts the pattern of life and Katongole asks a perceptive question with regard to her story.  He notes that Jesus said wherever his gospel would be preached what she did would be part of the story.  Katongole says, "I can't remember a single evangelist summarizing the gospel message in a way that included Mary's story."(p.114) Katongole includes stories of people who have interrupted the flow of church and society to declare that they belong to the Kingdom of Christ. 
  • "Mission - as we realize a new and urgent call to create and become the mixed-up people whose allegiance to our national, tribal, ethnic or racial identities is suspect."  Early in the work Katongole recounts a question and answer that took place among assembled church leaders:  "Are you saying that the blood of tribalism is deeper than the waters of baptism?  One leader answered, Yes it is." (p.22) 
Katongole's hope is for the church to recapture her mission, in Rwanda and around the world.  He describes the mission of the church as:  not so much rooted in some future that we've yet to achieve as it is remembering God's new creation, which Jesus embodied when he rose from the dead.  Our mission is to be a new community that bears witness to the fact that in Christ there is a new identity.  It is only by being such a unique people from 'every tribe and language and people and nation (Rev. 5.9)' that we can both name and resist the spell that would have us live as tribalized people." (p.25)  Katongole points to the church in Antioch, the Uganda martyrs, Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador, Paul Collins of Hotel Rwanda, Rwanda Sister Felicitee, Father Andre Sibomana, Carl Wilkens a US Missionary to Rwanda and others examples of people who live and lived out this mission.

Katongole's work has a prophetic voice to the church, the world and myself.  I am thankful for the prophet.

1 comment:

Duke said...

Another review of this book can be found at: