At the Annual Meeting on Jan 31, the Sacred Conversation on Race Ministry Team will present the Congregational Affirmation of the Sacred Conversation on Race for a vote.
Our conversation began in our Lenten House meetings last year. Now we want to include our whole congregation in working to understand and acknowledge the pain that racism has caused for us as individuals, in our interpersonal relationships, in the history and community life of this congregation and in society as a whole.
“No matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here.”
Indeed, you are. We at Old First cherish our commitment to diversity, and we exemplify it in our worship and our service programs. This is admirable and more than many congregations are doing, but we are called to go further and do more. We also need to acknowledge that in the history of our congregation and in our current community life, we have not always seen our faith in this way or lived out a faith that welcomed all, regardless of race.
The ministry team began working just as Ferguson was bringing national attention to racism, and has continued in an ever more troubling national context — in law enforcement, employment, education, mass incarceration, political campaign rhetoric, the water supply in Flint, Michigan. Racism, white privilege, white supremacy. Black Lives Matter. How do these affect us, how have we in our various life choices perpetuated the system that excludes those who are black and brown and how can we make a difference as a congregation and as individuals?
To help us understand what is at stake for us in talking about race and racism, the SCOR Ministry Team will lead the congregation in a self-assessment so that the conversation can be a fruitful and engaging process for everyone. The self-assessment is a structured reflection by Old First members based on these four statements about the congregation.
- We seldom, if ever, discuss race or racism.
- We used to talk about race and racism, but other issues are now more important to us.
- Race and racism are issues that we talk about from time to time.
- Race and racism are a constant topic of discussion.
Specific plans and procedures for this self-assessment are in process. This work will be difficult for us all, but we have already seen, in the Lenten House meetings, that it is rewarding. Congregational affirmation of our next steps will help us move forward with confidence.
We cannot guarantee that this work will be easy or without a sense of pain and/or shame. We can promise however, that the grace and mercy of God’s love, shown to us through Jesus, our Lord, will be a present part of this process. There is no sin that God does not forgive, there is not brokenness that the love of God, in God’s way, cannot heal, including the sin that flows from racism.
– Margaret Rohdy, for the Sacred Conversation on Race Ministry Team