The last time I was in Washington DC, I was 12 years old. Even then I was a history geek and remember the chills when I first entered the Lincoln Memorial. I remember standing in front of the Gettysburg Address. I read it out loud, unafraid if anyone thought I was crazy. It was the first time I read it, and I was in awe. Now I am 34, and last night when I walked into the Lincoln Memorial, the chills came back. I stood in front of those words and read them aloud again. Tears rolled down my cheeks.
I’m in Washington DC for the 2012 Young Clergy Leadership Forum hosted by the General Board of Church and Society. It is an awesome privilege to be here among 51 other clergy from over 30 Annual Conferences. I’ve already met some terrific people. I got into Washington yesterday afternoon and spent about four hours just walking around the mall. I think my goosebumps tally was four, and my tears came twice.
I think the most emotional part of my night though, was when I approached the Martin Luther King memorial. It is set up so that as you come to it from the Lincoln Memorial, you have to walk in between a few huge stones. The opening between the stones is aligned with the Jefferson Memorial, creating a beautiful geographic juxtaposition. I stood with Lincoln, the man that helped save the Union, behind me and with Thomas Jefferson, the man that wrote “all men are created equal” directly in front of me. In between is the rock that reads “Out of the Mountain of Despair, a Stone of Hope.” It was quite powerful to think about the promises that were offered by Jefferson, the tragic work of Lincoln, and the dream of King. I paused and read some of King’s quotes that adorn the memorial. I sat by the water and pondered his dream. Surely there is much work to be done, but I am awestruck at how far we have come. The mountain of despair remains daunting, but the stone of hope is sure.