23 Oct “What can we DO?” — Anti-Racism Update from Our Senior Pastor
Dear Sisters, Brothers, and Friends in Christ,
In 2016, our congregation identified four “threads” within our broader ministry; four focal points to ensure our faith intersects with the pressing issues of our day. These four threads both spring from, and seek to realize, Jesus’ call that we love God above all else and, relatedly, that we love our neighbors as ourselves. These threads empower us to concretely enact what it means to be “A House of Worship For All People”. The four threads are: multi-faith partnership, LBGTQ+ welcome and justice, environmental justice, and anti-racism.
Also since 2016, it has been our stated goal to engage these threads, and anything we do as a church, in a way that is truly inter-generational. Namely, in a way that honors and invites the gifts of every generation in our congregation, including our children and youth.
Events in 2020 have underscored, yet again, the deep-rooted reality of systemic racism. In turn, and more positively, these events have re-stoked our congregation’s desire to work for the love and justice that Jesus modeled so transformatively.
Over the last year-plus, our church has entered into a Spirit-led partnership with Bethel Baptist Church of Chicago Heights; engaged racism in worship, guided discussion/study-groups, and self-reflection; and participated in an historic walk against racism that culminated on the Winnetka Village Green. Most recently, we concluded a two-part Spiritual Enrichment conversation with long-time church member LeAnn Pope that was grounded in her Master’s thesis: “From Colorblind to Clearer Vision: A White Christian’s Unexpected Journey Toward Redemption.” (Links to LeAnn’s thesis, my interview with her, and our two Spiritual Enrichment sessions with LeAnn are listed below.)
Our desire is to act. To move from simply “talking about racism” to “doing something” about it. This is a positive impulse. And, surely, Christ calls us to “do” something. That said, as an overwhelmingly white congregation, how we act and the impact of our actions will continue to hinge heavily upon ongoing study and self-reflection, both individually and in groups. (Please see below for our updated anti-racism resource list.) This “inward” work is no less vital and is no less a form of “action” than the more “outward” expressions we understandably seek. Theologically speaking, it is deeply symbolic—and no accident—that these two axes of individual-to-collective and inward-to-outward, together, form a cross that frames our anti-racism efforts.
If we are to act outwardly—that is, if we are to advocate and work for the kind of structural change that reflects our evolving consciousness—then we must be prayerful, thoughtful, and strategic. We must proceed in a way that’s true to Christ’s call to love and justice. And equally true to our “way” as a Congregational church.
To help our church in both regards as we identify outward action and advocacy, we have formed an Anti-Racism Advocacy Leadership Team. Grounded in her passion and personal experience in this work, I have asked LeAnn Pope to lead this team. Please join me in thanking LeAnn for accepting this role, and in thanking Junia Hedberg, Jeanne Ebersole, Mike Jakob, and Greg Frezados for agreeing to complete our team.
The charge to our Anti-Racism Advocacy Leadership Team is to:
- Propose a process for Council to discuss and “bless”.
- Engage our broader congregation (possibly with small-groups, etc.) in developing questions, ideas, and potential opportunities.
- Present concrete options to Council and the congregation for us to act on, as people feel so moved to participate in.
- To factor in our Spirit-led partnership with Bethel Baptist Church.
Both our Executive Committee and Council endorse this plan. I will be working closely with this capable team. And, in the coming weeks, you will be hearing directly from them.
This is vital work. And, despite the weight of it, invigorating work. For our faith. For our church. And for the human communion which we humbly serve in Jesus’ name.
Should you have any questions, I would welcome hearing from you. And, as always…
Jeffrey D. Braun