Pastor Amy Roon
The pan-African philosophy of Ubuntu is deeply rooted in a question of identity, of belonging. My life is a woven tapestry of many identities: biracial, transracial, adoptee/adoptive, conscientiously single mother, person of faith, pastor, musician, woman. My childhood was shaped by exploration of many of these aspects of myself, and my adulthood has been a journey to find peers, communities, and experiences that could help me integrate them into a deep sense of belonging. The concept of ubuntu, “I am because we are,” conveys a conviction that individual identity is centered, grounded, in communal identity. For this reason, I chose ubuntu as the inspiration and focus of my sabbatical journey to the ancient sources of both my racial and Christian heritage, to help me and my son Benjamin find our way into a deeper sense of who we are, whose we are, and where we came from—both personally and profoundly theologically. I will be walking in the places where my ancestors walked, and also exploring the places where founding Christian theologians and philosophers such as Augustine and Origen lived and worked.
This fall UCUCC will begin a year-long focus on ubuntu, with support from the Calvin Institute Grant for Worshiping Communities. While Benjamin and I are exploring ubuntu in Egypt, Ethiopia, and Malawi, you all will be exploring ubuntu through worship, preaching, workshops, book studies, art, coalition building, and anti-racism work at home. Our church is in a season of change, one that is unprecedented in recent history for us. Questions of identity and belonging are essential to shape our emergence from the pandemic, and to help us stay connected to each other and our shared values as we navigate these difficult and sometimes uncomfortable changes. Leymah Gbowee, a Liberian peace activist, defines ubuntu as “I am what I am because of who we all are.” I know that I am who I am because of all those who surround me and came before me. My hope is that the spirit of ubuntu will light a path through these questions of identity, connection, and community for myself, my family, and our church as we travel together on a journey of belonging.