I read this quote from Henri Nouwen on Diana Bass’s Facebook page last night and find it expresses my hope in these troubling days: “In a world so torn apart by rivalry, anger, and hatred, we have the privileged vocation to be living signs of a love that can bridge all divisions and heal all wounds.” In the spirit of these words, let me share with you some resources for living this out in our congregations and communities.
With all the rhetoric about closing borders and building walls, I thought it might be time to take another look at how we might support refugee resettlement. I received a letter from Episcopal Migration Ministries last week inviting us to share in an upcoming webinar sponsored by Refugee Council USA (RCUSA) which will provide updates on the status of refugee legislation in Washington DC, upcoming opportunities for outreach and information specific to each state’s participation in refugee resettlement. The webinar will take place on Friday, July 29 at noon EST. To register, go to: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSefy44jdv6Ar80CegtZxBLFIUeyz3MDhswGVgoejoIsWZ6s0g/viewform
Episcopal Migration Ministries is a partnering agency with RCUSA.
Our presiding Bishop’s staff on Racial Reconciliation and Justice has been hard at work compiling resources that will engage all of us in conversation and action to bring healing and foster unity. I think it’s painfully obvious that this is a priority in our congregations and communities right now. Here’s a link to the TEC page – http://www.episcopalchurch.org/page/resources-racial-reconciliation-and-justice One of the resources I read about last evening comes from the Diocese of Atlanta’s work building the Beloved Community. This essay was written by Dr Catherine Meeks:
Our shared work to dismantle racism is thriving. There is new life and energy as together we imagine the way forward. Our work has become far more visible throughout the diocese, and local parishes are creatively making it part of their ongoing spiritual formation.
This is crucial. Building Beloved Community requires that we dismantle racism. This work must be done daily by the sisters and brothers who make up the worshiping communities of the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta.
Together we are creating the space for the Beloved Community to come into being. Our new mission statement makes it clear that we firmly stand on our Baptismal Covenant to love and respect the dignity of every person. Our intention is to act in ways that will not allow racism to live among us. This is the work of God’s church — and it needs to be firmly rooted on the same foundation that holds the church.
While our work is flourishing, this has not always been the case. In 2000, our General Convention established a structure for the formation of anti-racism commissions. Commissions were charged with making sure that every leader in the Episcopal Church participated in anti-racism training. Our diocese stepped up to the plate, formed a commission and began training.
The training was not very popular. Across the diocese — after about a decade of work — many voices declared that both the commission’s name and the training were offensive to them. The commission involved itself in few activities beyond training, and its visibility was low.
When I joined the group in 2009, there was a clear need to transform our approach. We crafted a new mission statement, scheduled retreats and read together Bishop Desmond Tutu’s powerful book, Made For Goodness. The training came to a halt.
In 2010, I agreed to lead the task of restarting it. After exploring ways to make the training more appropriate for the needs of participants, we made a major change — one that has borne wonderful fruit for our diocese. We added the celebration of Holy Communion to the training day, and we centered the training in spiritual formation.
We now offer Eucharist-centered Dismantling Racism Training. It helps participants see the day as a part of their ongoing spiritual formation, and it encourages them to replicate what they learn in their daily lives and in parish life.
We changed our name to Beloved Community: Commission for Dismantling Racism. We moved our cathedral-based meetings out into the diocese. Six parishes now host the trainings and we have invited parishioners to actively participate. This has made a tremendous difference. The parishes extend amazing hospitality, and parishioners find it is a wonderful opportunity to learn more and to engage. We begin each meeting with spiritual formation led by one of our members.
We aim to make the commission the people’s commission — your commission. Can you openly imagine what your role might be in building our Beloved Community? Can you envision how you might help dismantle racism?
We are grateful for our transformation and for the enthusiasm that is growing across our diocese. The national church community is excited about our work, too.
We invite your prayers and active participation. Join us as we walk on the path with Jesus to create Beloved Community. Anyone with thoughts or ideas about the work of the Beloved Community: Commission for Dismantling Racism, and who would like to share them, is invited to send them to me at email@example.com. To read more about the work of the commission, visit here.
Their Mission Statement reads:
Because racism works against our baptismal call to love others in the power of the spirit and to strive for justice and peace among all people, we seek to heal this chronic illness in our faith community through education, developing greater awareness of its existence in our ongoing spiritual formation. We will use prayer, intentional action, continued dialogue and the sharing of our personal and collective stories to help in facilitating the healing, transformation and reconciliation that will make it possible for us to truly see the face of God in all others.
On the subject of racial reconciliation, our Household’s Race Relations and Diversity Task Force has prepared a summer reading list for you:
- Barnot, Joseph. 2007. Understanding & Dismantling Racism: The Twenty-First Century Challenge to White America (paperback – text by Crossroads founder and Executive Director.)
- Campolo, Tony and Michael Battle. 2005. The Church Enslaved
Race/Racism – Popular and Scholarly:
- Alexander, Michelle. The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindess
- Bonilla-Silva, Eduardo. 2013 (paperback).Racism without Racists: Color-Blind Racism and the Persistence of Racial Inequality in America, 4th Edition. Rowen and Littlefield.
- Coates, Ta-Nehisi. Between the World and Me
- Doane, Ashley W. & Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, ed. White Out: The Continuing Significance of Racism
- Feagin, Joe. 2013 (paperback, 2nd).The White Racial Frame: Centuries of Racial Framing and Counter-Framing.
- Lareau, Annette. 2003.Unequal Childhoods: Class, Race, and Family Life. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.
- Loewen, James W. 1995.Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong. New York: New Press.
- Tim. 2012. Dear White America: Letter to a New Minority
- Wise, Tim. 2009. Between Barack and a Hard Place: Racism and White Denial in the Age of Obama
- Wise, Tim. 2008. Speaking Treason Fluently: Anti-Racist Reflections from an Angry White Male
Race/Racism – Popular:
- Ball, Edward. 2014 .Slaves in the Family. (Reissued paperback – National Book Award for Nonfiction, Ambassador Book Award for American Studies)
- Cose, Ellis. 1993.The Rage of a Privileged Class. New York: Harper Perennial.
- Wilkerson, Isabel. 2011. The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration (Pulitzer Prize–winning author, National Book Critics Circle Award Winner.)
- Wiencek, Henry. 2000. The Hairstons: An American Family in Black and White (Paperback – February 19, 2000 — National Book Critics Circle Award Winner)
Before I close for another week, let me also recommend the upcoming speaker series Epiphanies. Our diocese will be blessed to have Stephanie Spellers (check out last week’s blog to see a brief video that she has prepared for TEC), Cynthia Crysdale and Diana Butler Bass share their insights and wisdom on topics of radical welcome, racial reconciliation, ethics, and atonement theology, contemporary ecclesiology and the church today. You can learn more here – http://epiphaniesspeakers.wix.com/epiphanies
In this season of elections, I thought this prayer most appropriate to close:
Let us pray –
Give us, O God,
leaders whose hearts are large enough
to match the breadth of our own souls
and give us souls strong enough
to follow leaders of vision and wisdom.
In seeking a leader, let us seek
more than development for ourselves—
though development we hope for—
more than security for our own land—
though security we need—
more than satisfaction for our wants—
though many things we desire.
Give us the hearts to choose the leader
who will work with other leaders
to bring safety
to the whole world.
Give us leaders
who lead this nation to virtue
without seeking to impose our kind of virtue
on the virtue of others.
Give us a government
that provides for the advancement
of this country
without taking resources from others
to achieve it.
Give us insight enough ourselves
to choose as leaders those who can tell
strength from power,
growth from greed,
leadership from dominance,
and real greatness from the trappings of grandiosity.
We trust you, Great God,
to open our hearts to learn from those
to whom you speak in different tongues
and to respect the life and words
of those to whom you entrusted
the good of other parts of this globe.
We beg you, Great God,
give us the vision as a people
to know where global leadership truly lies,
to pursue it diligently,
to require it to protect human rights
for everyone everywhere.
We ask these things, Great God,
with minds open to your word
and hearts that trust in your eternal care.
(Sister Joan Chittister, OSB)
~ The Rev. Judith Schellhammer, chair, Resolution Review Committee