Jordan’s Stormy BanksPosted June 16th, 2012 by Thomas Norman DeWolf
Salt Lake City, Utah. I sit in the terminal for an almost-four-hour layover thinking about the past week at the Summer Peacebuilding Institute, Healing the Wounds of History through the use of Transformative Theater, and how deep the traumatic wounds can be that impact all of us.
I plan to write about the class I just experienced, which was profoundly moving in many ways, but I need more time to absorb and ponder the past week, and have a bit more context to share.
Class ended Friday afternoon around 4:00pm. Warm goodbyes were shared. Scratch that. Warm “see you again” messages were shared. In my experience with SPI over the past six years, these are not idle words. I remain in touch with many friends from virtually all the classes I’ve taken over the years; many through Facebook and other social media, and others through actual contact; through ongoing work we do together that results in multiple, intersecting paths.
Last night, after many SPI students had departed for their homes around the globe, and others packed or gathered for one last dinner with friends, I went to a play that was being performed on campus with Roya, one of my classmates.
As I wrote in “Their blood flows in the streets” a few days ago, our class was powerfully impacted by the death of Odell Brown, a neighbor of one of our class members. This senseless death represents present-day, horrific trauma; trauma that is rooted in the history and systems of oppression and terror in the United States.
Jordan’s Stormy Banks tells a story of historic trauma; wounds that were inflicted long ago, but that continue to impact the United States 150 years after the fictionalized events took place. During the Civil War, members of the Mennonite and Brethren churches in the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia were caught in the middle of that horrible war facing conflicts of their own on what to do. How does one remain true to one’s faith, in which an unyielding commitment to peace means rejection of war, when circumstances bring violence and danger to your family to your very doorstep? How does one remain true to one’s country when your country is split asunder? How does one remain true to one’s family when different family members make choices about the war that stand in stark contrast to what you know is right and true?
Through this wonderful production (which was directed by one of my classmates this week, Heidi Winters Vogel), I was asked to view the Civil War from a very personal and human perspective. I learned more about the Anabaptist (Mennonite and Brethren) faith and the challenges of staying committed to peace in a world that is not very peaceful. It reminded me again that as I stand at the top of the hill above campus as sunrise looking down over the beautiful and peaceful Shenandoah Valley, this was a site of war, of horror, of death, and of impossible choices.
Jordan’s Stormy Banks offered this student of peace another perspective (several, actually) to consider as I think about all I’ve learned this week at EMU.
Eastern Mennonite University
Harlem Book Fair
Phillis Wheatley Book Award
Post Racial Society
Summer Peacebuilding Institute
Tulsa race riot
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