Grace Matters: A True Story of Race, Friendship, and Faith in the Heart of the South
By Chris P. Rice (Jossey-Bass, 303 pages, $22.95)
A good memoir is a voyage of self-discovery. And Chris Rice's Grace Matters chronicles his self-discovery on several levels.
One good way to learn about yourself is to have a cross-cultural experience. As Grace Matters begins, Chris Rice is a student from élite Middlebury College taking a short-term break for ministry at Voice of Calvary Ministries in Jackson, Mississippi—a privileged Northern white boy trying to do good in a poor black Southern community.
Many whites who have even tentatively begun to explore racial reconciliation will recognize the no-win double binds Chris experienced: Use your organizational know-how and be accused (like all whites) of always trying to run things; or worse, step back from using your gifts and feel accused (like all whites) of not really being committed. Frankly, that is a stage everyone who believes in racial reconciliation has to move through. Grace Matters is a testimony to the fact that there is ministry and fellowship on the other side of the double bind.
Much of Grace Matters is devoted to the question only a few have had to ask: What is a white man in a black man's world? With the rise of the black middle class, many more African Americans have had to ask the opposite question. Chris's experience never fully resolves the question, but reading Grace Matters can open a reader's eyes to the multidimensional interaction of culture, ethnicity, and identity.
A second way to learn about yourself is to live in intentional community. Grace Matters chronicles the full life cycle of a remarkable community. Now disbanded, Antioch was more successful than any other ...1
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