“Constantly crossing borders and boundaries between countries, disciplines and spheres of influence,” and the kind of “pilgrim existence” this creates, says Emmanuel, points to the transformation that happens not simply from textbook learning, but through journeys. “Belonging to more than one ‘home’ but never fully assuming any as the real ‘home’ offers new possibilities for the creation of new forms of knowledge about Africa, the world, and the church as the sign and sacrament of God’s new future in the world.”
Over the course of Emmanuel’s six years in Durham, many more “Dukies” have engaged such a journey of transformation. Six Divinity School students have spent their summers working with Emmanuel’s brother Joseph in field education placements. A group of 30 (including Dean L. Gregory Jones and his and my families) were guided by Emmanuel on a two-week Rwanda/Uganda “Pilgrimage of Pain and Hope” in 2005. One of his former students, Brooke Burris, is teaching at Uganda Christian University in Mukono. And the constant exchange of gifts both ways is crucial. This summer, Ugandan Catholic Cardinal Emmanuel Wamala visits Durham and Duke, and in the fall, Ugandan Father Peter Claver, a former student of Emmanuel’s, begins a two-year master of theological studies course at Duke.
In his zest for journeys from sites of pain and hope in Rwanda to the inner cities of Baltimore, Jackson, and Chicago, Emmanuel sees a bigger journey at stake, “a quest toward ‘new creation’ … not the church of current denominations, not the church caught up in violence, but the church as it can be, the bride of Christ, drawn from nations, tongues, tribes, and denominations.”
The bottom line for Emmanuel, as he has written, “is the quest and fostering of [this journey toward new creation] that energizes and drives my work and keeps me going in the strange place called Duke and in a strange country called America. It is because I have been set on a journey toward that new creation, and have come to realize that being set on that journey involves living and working at different locations, using whatever gifts are at hand; constantly on a journey, grounded in the present, but ever straining to see and live into a new future, a different world right here.”
When we visited with Cardinal Wamala during the 2005 Pilgrimage of Pain and Hope, he spoke as Emmanuel’s spiritual mentor. After joking with Dean Jones that Duke should be canonized for putting up with Emmanuel for these years, he offered striking words: “No, you have not made him more Catholic. You have made him more Christian.”
I doubt Emmanuel—scholar, teacher, priest, and pilgrim, African in America, Catholic at Duke, constantly bridging diverse worlds—could envision a more desirable outcome of his vocation and hope for the church: that somehow, in faithful exchange between strangers, signs of “new creation” erupt.
Chris Rice D'04 is co-director of the Center for Reconciliation at Duke Divinity School and the author of More Than Equals: Racial Healing for the Sake of the Gospel and Grace Matters.