Juneteenth Cookout

It seems clear that Christianity was born out of Love amidst violence (whipping and crucifixion), and hardship (11 of 12 Apostles met violent deaths as a result of their witnessing to the Gospel). Flash forward to suburban Princeton, NJ, where ‘life as a Christian’ is rather different. On the spectrum of, “For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it, ...” to a life of discipleship here today there seems to be some dynamic tension. My path on The Way has bounced along in this space, a journey for me only possible with the constant comfort and advocacy of the Holy Spirit.


My life has been very stereotypically that of a privileged White, and I remain disabled by that sheltered life. My “WWII” father used the GI Bill to get the first college degree in our family. We had a stable home life with two loving parents and two older brothers, four loving grandparents for good measure, stable finances, generally three meals a day, church on Sundays, cutting neighborhood lawns and having a paper route to learn how to do good work, and off to college, graduation and my own very lucky, wonderful family life, and career.


In some ways for me the Spirit did indeed move in unexpected ways.The newspaper route was key in opening my eyes to racial disparities and injustices - - it was the Newark(NJ) Evening News, and the Newark “Race” Riots among other unrest were front-page news almost everyday - - that was a wake-up call to me. This has long been a source of wonder, thankfulness, and confusion, for me. When the classic verses of the Holy Spirit filling the crowd at Pentecost are read, I wonder not so much that each can understand what is happening, as that people from 14 different ethnicities, nationalities and cultures are peacefully assembled in the first place. Out of this faith context I dealt with a few race-related challenges growing up. As examples:


  • Moving from a wealthy all-White north NJ town (an “inter-faith” marriage was between a northern European White Protestant and a Roman Catholic) to a rural segregated PA town bordering the Mason-Dixon line, (about 15% Black).
  • We moved during the summer, and my only friends were Black children who played at the community parks, and we quickly cultivated mutual respect and friendships based on no- complaints/no-fouls/play-hard basketball games.
  • The principal’s hand-picked student guide pulled me aside right before the first day of high school, 9th grade, and said, “Bring a knife tomorrow. We’re going to cut the N....’s” Team activities and activities quickly undercut that sort of influence; classmates soon paved the way for many interracial friendships.


This is recognizable as the sort of interaction any middle/upper middle class White life might have been at that time, with some racial awareness amidst it all. Some difficulties, all recognizable. Suffice it to say, many others have grown up somewhat racially isolated with some unfavorable views passed down, all while trying to navigate the ‘normal’ trials of life.


Healing often takes time, yes. And we may also be tempted to pull into our shell and disengage from a hostile, dangerous world.How do we manage it and find energy to be constructive and loving to all our neighbors? For me, it has all only been my faith and the comfort and support of the Holy Spirit.


Our Juneteenth cookout is one way for us to be witness to our faith because the Holy Spirit keeps us going and shows us the way. In my case, a few years back just after the Charlottesville White Supremacy rally, a nationally-known African-American leader speaking on campus suggested that sharing a meal with people of diverse characteristics can be a means of constructively bridging the racial divide. Not unlike how Jesus always seemed to be eating! We’ve now been on that journey for four+ years, including a year+ of pre-planning, meeting and bonding with Mt. Pisgah African Methodist Episcopal Church, and enjoying our cookouts.


For me, this is all only possible for us with the help of the Holy Spirit. I had never heard of Juneteenth six years ago. The Spirit gave and keeps giving the energy to continue despite many bumps along the way. The Spirit has led me, and I think others at P/KUMC, to fruitful conversations at the cookouts and food for thought throughout the year. And our fellow disciples at Mt. Pisgah share the positive sense of Spirit-led community building. Yes, we all have many responsibilities tugging at us, and we have our own baggage, but the Holy Spirit is much bigger than all that. And who doesn’t like a nice cook-out??? Join us this year, again or for the first time, and help us do a little faith & fellowship building over a meal!


The cookout will take place June 10, 11:30am-3:00pm, at The Cloister Inn. PUMC and KUMC congregants are asked to bring a dessert or side to share.