Sankofa: to go back and retrieve that which has been lost.
I started my conference in California with a talk from Rev. Terry Hershey. And I couldn’t have asked for a more powerful way to kick things off.
I’ll allow him to do the talking, in an excerpt from his blog:
I just finished a weekend with 40,000 of my closest friends at the Religious Education Congress, in the Anaheim Convention Center. It’s an annual recharge event. A place to tell stories, give and receive hugs, listen to music, laugh ‘till we cry, and drink wine into the late evening.
I taught them a new word: Sankofa (in the Akan language of Ghana). It is often associated with the proverb, “Se wo were fi na wosankofa a yenkyi,” which translates “It is not wrong to go back for that which you have forgotten.” Or to remember. Or to recover. As an affirmation of the very things that make us human and fully alive.
When we practice Sankofa, it is possible to reclaim the fruit of the sacrament of the present moment – light, kindness, compassion, understanding, forgiveness, kindheartedness, tolerance, gratitude, mercy, second chances, hope, dignity, open heart, open mind – that has been buried or lost or dormant.
It is not easy, because we are broken people. We know that to be true. A lot of our brokenness has to do with relationships when life has gone askew. If you ask me what it is that makes us suffer, it is always because someone couldn’t hold onto us, or because someone hurt us. I know each of us can point to a brokenness in our relationships with our husband, with our wife, with our father, with our mother, with our children, with our friends, with our lovers.
Wherever there is love, there is also pain.
Wherever there are people who really care for us, there is also the pain of sometimes not being cared for… enough.
And there is the pain that comes from getting rid of those parts of us that feel inauthentic or false…..
We all know of the many things that take us away from home… anger, distraction, self-importance, cruelty, vengeance, unforgiveness, discouragement, despair, disenfranchisement, alienation, heartache.
And what I’ve learned, in my own life at least, is that in every instance this new weight becomes the definition for our identity. It tells us who we are. And it requires that we focus on the periphery issues, on whatever is needed to impress, or manipulate, or achieve, or use, or hurt, or perform. And we are disconnected from our self.
Like Dia, we cannot undo these “bad things”. But we can allow ourselves to fall into the embrace of Grace.
See why I let him do the talking?
Thank you, Terry, for teaching us sankofa.