Mine Eyes Have Seen the Savior

June 3, 2003

by The Most Rev. Frank T. Griswold, III
Presiding Bishop and Primate, The Episcopal Church

The flourishing of a community is intimately connected to the ability of its members to tell their stories, and to listen to the stories of one another. Our own Episcopal Church community bears witness to this. A common understanding of our history is essential to bind us together so we can move forward into the future.

Alas, historical accountings are often partial or one-sided, and not all members of the community are given the opportunity to tell their own stories. The history reflects the experience of the dominant group. Mine Eyes Have Seen the Savior is therefore a gift to our whole church as it tells stories that have been given insufficient attention. These two one-hour videos show us, in a compelling way, something of the experience of Black members of our church and the role they have played in our common life and ministry. The Rt. Rev. Arthur Williams, Bishop Suffragan of Ohio, is our guide, and introduces us to historians and those who lived and made this history. Together they paint for us a picture of the Black experience within the Episcopal Church from our beginnings to the present day.

Looking back into history is a risky enterprise. While it can be inspiring to celebrate the glories of people who have gone before, it can also be painful, as we uncover what some might choose to forget or deem irrelevant to our lives today. Mine Eyes Have Seen the Savior recounts incidences of redemption and resurrection, as well as pain and suffering. We must look at this part of our past unafraid. Then, together, we can lament—and continue in our work of healing old wounds; together we can rejoice at the courage and faithfulness of brothers and sisters in Christ.

Our history is still being written, and God’s project continues. Day by day we add fresh pages, as we do God’s work and carry out the mission of the church, which as our Catechism tells us is “to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.” I commend to our church a careful study of these videos as a means of mutual understanding, and a step in our ongoing work of reconciliation.