Stations of Reparations Liturgy Seeks Racial Reconciliation

Contributed by: The Rev. Jack Zamboni

The Reparations Commission of the Episcopal Diocese of New Jersey offers a special worship and reflection service for the entire diocese to bring awareness of the call for Reparations for the legacy of slavery. In the context of  Scripture, prayer, and song, we’ll hear stories of Colonial Era participation in enslavement by clergy and lay leaders in Anglican parishes that are now part of the Episcopal Diocese of New Jersey.  Please spend part of your weekend at Stations of Reparations as part of your observance of Lent.

This family event is hosted by St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, 33 Throckmorton Street, Freehold this Saturday, March 25th at 11:00 AM. The service will also be live-streamed on YouTube at St. Peter’s Church Freehold.

The idea for a Liturgy of Stations for Reparations emerged from the History Working Group of the Reparations Commission as they began to digest the complicity of Colonial Era Anglican Churches in enslavement. The Commission believes it is essential that these stories be told in many ways, including in the context of worship.

The core of the service is modeled on the traditional Stations of the Cross in which a portion of the story of Jesus’ Passion is told at each Station within a repeating structure of prayer. In the Stations of Reparation Liturgy, we will hear stories of the unjust suffering of enslaved people of African descent at the hands of White, Anglican Christians in 5 Colonial Era parishes of our Diocese. Each Parish Station will also include an excerpt from Dark Testament and Other Poems (1970) by the Rev. Dr. Pauli Murray, the first Black woman to be ordained a priest in the Episcopal Church, who was recently added to our Calendar of Saints.

Work on uncovering the stories of Colonial Anglican complicity in enslavement had been previously done in a few of these congregations, but the full scope of our Church’s involvement in this evil began to emerge from the investigations of Dr. Jolyon Pruszinski, the Research Historian hired by the Commission in September, 2022.  Much of the historical material that will be presented in the service is based on his research. There are many more stories that will not be touched on this service, but which are now available at Diocese of New Jersey Racial Justice Review. Visit the blog site to explore Diocesan history in regards to race. There are also resources on how to research your own congregation’s history.

The idea of Reparations is rooted in the concept of making amends for past wrongs. Specifically, it is a call to acknowledge and address historical and ongoing injustices, systemic racism, and discrimination. The Reparations movement seeks to provide redress for ways in which enslavement and its ongoing legacies have excluded Black Americans from full participation in American society and severely restricted their economic, political, and social opportunities.

For some people, the idea of Reparations is controversial and raises questions about individual responsibility, historical accountability, and the role of government. For Christians, the Gospel call is clear: to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ and to repair what is broken as we live out our faith in the world. Reparations is a response to our Baptismal promises to love our neighbor as ourselves and to strive for justice and peace among all people and to respect the dignity of every human being (Book of Common Prayer, p. 306).

The Stations of Reparations event is a powerful opportunity to engage in this kind of reflection and learning. Participants will be invited to consider the history of racial injustice in our diocese and to reflect on what it means to seek Reparations for the harm that has been done. At this family-friendly event, children will be welcome to participate in this important conversation. A reception will follow the service.