Sunday, November 2, 2008

Getting Ready

I'm writing on Sunday morning, November 2, in the final stages of preparation for the trip. The vaccinations are complete, visa's received, meetings and appointments confirmed, air and ground travel arrangements made. I've read some history and some current events. All that remains is to pack the clothes and, physically, I'll be ready to begin the pilgrimage.

The spiritual preparation continues. In South Africa we'll be meeting with leaders of the Truth and Reconciliation process, not only hoping to understand that process more deeply, but also hoping to learn what these leaders can help us see about the need for both truth and reconciliation in our own country. The visits with Unitarian and Unitarian Universalist groups in both east and west Africa will bring us into contact with our co-religionists who live and worship in very different cultural and economic circumstances. Our social service partners will, I hope, deepen our understanding of the impact of the HIV/Aids pandemic. And the pilgrimage to Goree Island takes us to the harbor where some of my relatives may have left Africa for the Middle Passage.

Each part of the journey will require openness to the experience as it unfolds. My spiritual preparation has centered on that openness, on quieting my preconceptions. I have to have faith, to trust, that I will learn what I am supposed to learn on this journey, even if those learnings don't fit perfectly with my hopes.

As an African American, the continent of Africa has a special power for me. Although on neither side of my family tree can I trace my ancestry far back into the days of slavery, I know that I stand on the shoulders of my African ancestors who survived so much. This pilgrimage will bring me into contact with my personal history. I am both excited and anxious as I prepare for this encounter.