Black Excellence Spiritual Collective
Black Excellence Spiritual Collective (BESC) started with 5 questions and 50 conversations. In August of 2020, the University Episcopal Community (UEC) received a small grant to engage with the work of healing and justice following the murder of George Floyd. As a first step, UEC connected with Rev. Louis Tillman to begin conversations with Black young adults ages 18-26 around what was on their hearts and minds.
In 2015, during his pastoral internship with Redeemer Lutheran in North Minneapolis, Louis started a faith community called Healing and Harmony in Harrison [a neighborhood of Minneapolis] (H-Cubed). H-Cubed used prayer, music, poetry and food to create a healing space for Black young adults to gather in the wake of the deaths of Jamar Clark and Philando Castille. Wanting to start with the stories and experiences of young adults, Louis engaged in over 50 conversations with Black young adults. He wove in the following questions in each conversation:
- What is the metaphysical dilemma of being a young adult of African Descent in this season?
- What keeps you up at night? And how do you process it?
- Where do you want to see yourself in 3 years from now?
- Are you originally from the Twin Cities? If so, how has that limited your experience of black existentialism in our society?
- What are your unanswered questions/meditations of George Floyd? And what are your immediate thoughts of where change needs to take place?
These initial conversations, which took place between December 2020 and February 2021, surfaced three main areas that were on the hearts and minds of young adults: financial literacy/racial wealth gap issues; mental health & processing trauma. BESC began throwing events over zoom and offering pastoral support and spiritual direction for the young adults who connected with Louis. BESC looks forward to seeing where the Holy Spirit leads it in the coming months and years: Towards a worshipping community? Towards supporting mentorship and spiritual direction? Towards a retreat series? Towards advocacy for social change?
As BESC builds towards vibrancy, its members have been traumatized by the April 11th killing of Daunte Wright. Over 75% of the young adults involved, reached out to Louis since the shooting with feelings of anger, hopelessness, and fear. In conversations with over 35 Black young adults, Louis identified the following four crises that are weighing on Black young adults:
● Theological Identity Crisis: Where is God in all of this? Why does God allow this to happen to people kissed by nature's sun, like me? Where is the church in all of this? Why are preachers only coming to the protest for selfies and self-promotion? Is there a heaven for someone like me? Is there a higher power looking after me?
● Spiritual Distress Crisis: Why am I dying to live, when I'm just living to die? Why can't I believe/trust the justice system? Why should I trust anyone? Why should I trust the church or any religious person?
● Metaphysical Injury Crisis: What can I do in my community? Why did I go to the protests this week? Why didn't I go to the protests this week? How should I be around police/law enforcement? Why I ever be able to forgive myself for never trusting nor respecting people in authority. Is it a crime, to fight, for what is mine?
● Historical Trauma Crisis: When will things ever change? I've been through this story before, but why is it still happening? If I had 24 hours to live, what would I do differently? What could I do differently? Will I be the next "hashtag" from the murder of a police officer?
As we embark upon these waiting days of the Derek Chauvin trial, we are called to understand that this is a season of Sankofa, that is, if you stay stuck in the past and don’t learn from it, you will never grow. We are empowered by our history. We are empowered by the struggle and ability to overcome. Not just us as a people, but our whole nation benefits from learning about our history and embracing the best each of us has to offer.
Louis asks: “In this season of COVID-19, I'm curious if the Episcopal Church in Minnesota is being called to do something bold and daring—but DIFFERENT than the normal when addressing racial justice?”
Will you pray for us? Will you support us? Will you work to make sure that Black Excellence Spiritual Collective has the human and financial resources to continue showing up alongside Black young adults? Will you support BESC in enabling healing from trauma, seeking justice, and living courageous and joyful lives?