Re-membering the Whole Self by Katie Ernst

“Remembering ourselves and our power can lead to revolution, but it requires more than recalling a few facts.  Re-membering involves putting ourselves back together, recovering identity and integrity, reclaiming the wholeness of our lives.” -Parker Palmer

When I came to Life Together I was wrestling with the multiple parts of myself-- how to integrate my emotions, intellect and body. My earlier years in the Church required me to sever these parts of me into nice little boxes-- some safe, some not so safe. First box was emotions, to trust my heart and the Holy Spirit. I learned that God was most present when I emoted out to Him (and make no mistakes it was a Him). However, as soon as I questioned or began to have criticism or doubt, the emotional box unraveled. So I overcompensated and leaned all the way to intellect. God was most present in the deconstruction of my life, in real conversations, in theory, and theology. This, of course, came at the cost of my heart and emotions. The body... well, that never was safe to explore in the church I grew up in. The flesh was taboo, scandalous, and sinful.

Life Together became the location, the playground where I was invited to put my selves back together again. Where I didn’t have to live in these boxes of emotion, intellect, and body. Through community, prayer, and dance I was able to reclaim my wholeness, to begin to re-member myself. God became present in the relationship between the three.

This practice of re-membering has become the foundation of my work as the Program Director of the Mission Institute. We work to convene, connect, and collaborate with congregations and communities to engage the work of racial justice. Doing this in New England, with primarily white, liberal, over-educated, white Episcopalians, requires the practice of re-membering the whole self. It seems we often live in the rather enticing box of intellect, which can look like the desperate need for comfort and engagement through programs, theories, workshops, toolkits, and step-by-step instruction. As if we could dismantle racism only through intellect.

Fueled by what I practiced at Life Together, I go out and continue to practice re-membering, moving from the box of intellect to whole self-- one that welcomes emotions (difficult ones), creates theologies to accompany the work, and welcomes the body into restoration from the dismemberment of racism and white supremacy. My work is not easy or safe but it is required of me as a follower of God, who is the ultimate re-membering of the beloved whole.