On Sunday, I celebrated Easter in Ann Arbor with folks at the Episcopal Church of the Incarnation. I had already heard a lot of wonderful things about this place because a number of my friends are a part of this community. For that reason, I walked in the doors with a bit of knowledge, but there was still much for me to experience and learn. For instance, I discovered the story of this unique building.
Upon entering the Episcopal Church of the Incarnation, I imagine most people become immediately curious about the architecture. It is very unique. Soon after I entered the space, I was grateful when someone told me the story about how this building came to be. It’s not a story I would have expected.
The building started with this piece in the photo above – the structure with the arch on top. An African-American professor named David Byrd had been teaching a construction class with his students, and this was one of their projects.
But once they were finished with it, they thought, why stop here? They began to ponder creating a building around this structure. While considering this, David Byrd had a experience of calling: He discerned that they should build a church.
And this is where a construction project became an even greater vision. He recalled these words of scripture, first found in the Hebrew Bible and then applied to Jesus in the New Testament,
The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone;
God has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes.
David Byrd, teacher and visionary, wanted to create a church that would house people who have been rejected, so that they could be at home, held in community, and empowered. For this reason, he and his students traveled around Washtenaw County and collected building materials that had been tossed aside and thrown away. From these, he built a home for anyone who feels rejected, a home for a community that is called to stand with those who are rejected.
This is powerful.
It also feels fitting. People from this community are now some of the leaders of the local chapter of the upcoming Poor People’s Campaign. If you have not yet heard about this, you surely will soon. There is a national movement underway to resurrect the Poor People’s Campaign, initiated by Martin Luther King Jr. He and others were working on this campaign in 1968, when it was sadly disrupted due to his assassination — 50 years ago this very day.
Martin Luther King Jr. was certainly a stone rejected. His legacy remains marvelous in our eyes, but his legacy is one that needs to be lived in our own lives, our own time, and our own particularity.
I am curious how a community built with this vision might participate in creating a social structure that resurrects this needed legacy in new ways.