Privilege

It’s become one of my favorite places. For the past five years, I have been a part of the teaching staff at Holden Village, a retreat center tucked into a remote valley in the Washington Cascades.

The journey to Holden is an adventure. You ride a boat 20 miles up a wilderness lake, climb aboard an old school bus for an 11-mile drive up a winding gravel road and eventually arrive at an old copper mining camp that was sold to the Lutheran church for $1 back in the late 1950s.

There is no phone. No internet. You spend your days hiking, reading, and making felted hedgehogs in the art studio. There is time to walk through a labyrinth nestled between the mountains, reflect in one of the hammocks beside the river, talk with friends old and new, watch deer wander through the village, and attend as many of the educational sessions as you’d like.

The teaching staff is a mix of theologians, artists, musicians, environmentalists and social justice advocates. I happen to be Lutheran, but many of the folks there are not. One of the things I love about the place is the open sense of hospitality, welcome and appreciation for all people.

That being said, the Lutheran church as a whole is pretty white. Even as there is interest in diversifying and welcoming other voices, there is some historical momentum that keeps the body predominantly protestant, Scandinavian…and white.

But at Holden, they recognize that a lack of ethnic diversity does not preclude you from conversations about race. In fact, it demands it. As John Wesley said,  “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.”

And so, in the midst of this wilderness retreat, at Holden we spent the week grappling with issues of race and privilege. We set up a studio and asked people, “When have you recognized your own privilege?”

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