Towards Becoming a Racial Justice Church
Do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God -Micah 6:8
Phase II. Interrupters & Current Events
Our first task as interrupters of current cycles of oppression will be to dive into the topic of Criminal and Restorative Justice. In preparation for this the RJSC invites the congregation to view 13th, a Netflix documentary (2016) titled after the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution which abolished slavery throughout the United States. ‘Combining archival footage with testimony from activists and scholars, director Ava DuVernay examines the U.S. prison system and how the country’s history of racial inequality drives the high rate of incarceration in America.’ 13th is available for free on YouTube (just follow this blue link).
In concert with this film, we will also reference a New Yorker article Ten Years After “The New Jim Crow” (January 17, 2020) in which David Remnick interviews Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (2012). In this interview Alexander shares her own awakening and provides an inspirational way of reframing our systems of justice.
With the film and article as background, we are very excited to sponsor two programs in January featuring guest speakers who will share their experiences, tell their stories, and participate in interactive discussions with our congregation.
In February we will look at present day issues of immigration, focusing on individual and family experiences both regionally and across the U.S. In March, we will explore racial injustice embedded in our current systems of education.
Racial Justice Moments – Racial Justice Moments will re-start during the Sunday service early in January with Dr. Bonita Betters-Reed’s experience as a diversity scholar finding her way to interruption of workplace gender and racial hierarchy. Throughout the winter, the RJSC will be inviting others to join us in this important moment of sharing, allowing us to become better acquainted through our individual experiences and insights. Likewise, we will continue to integrate relevant topics and activities in Christian Education, through our music program and the Sunday sermons and messaging.
Welcoming Diversity Inventory– The NHCUCC Racial Justice process recommends that each church consider completing Welcoming Diversity: An Inventory for Congregations. The RJSC will help facilitate this process by inviting all committees and their members to participate in completing the form after our Annual Meeting in January.
Earlier in our Journey
It is with deep and genuine enthusiasm that The Racial Justice Steering Committee (RJSC) shares our initial thoughts, resources, and plans for what will likely be a year-long journey toward becoming a Racial Justice Church. Please walk with us (Sara Marean, Donna Reade, Nancy Allenby, Nancy De Vries, Paul Currier, & Bonita Betters-Reed) as we collaboratively respond to the following UCC Call which is encapsulated below:
Awakening to Racial Justice
The New Hampshire Conference of the United Church of Christ (NHCUCC) and the Racial Justice Mission Group welcome your congregation as you engage in an ongoing process of Becoming a Racial Justice Church in accordance with the resolution passed at Annual Meeting 2018: Resolution of Christian Witness in Support of New Hampshire Conference United Church of Christ Congregations Awakening to Racial Justice (see the Appendix, pages 14-17 in the guide below for the full text of the resolution). Our UCC denomination embraces this same intentional awakening. In outlining both the strength and urgency of our commitment to racial justice and to confronting racism in all its manifestations, the UCC, via its website (https://www.ucc.org/justice_
Each person is created in the image of God. But whenever we devise, maintain or perpetuate systems and structures that oppress people based on race and/or ethnicity, we interfere with God’s purpose and the opportunity for all God’s children to be fully who they are created to be. Racism is an affront to God.
Racism is racial prejudice plus power. It is rooted in the belief that one group has racial superiority and entitlement over others. Its power is manifested in every institution and system, both nationally and internationally, which was historically established and continues to function to benefit one group of people to the disadvantage of other groups. Awareness and education will help us to become anti-racist individuals and foster the development of anti-racist systems and institutions that can eliminate privilege for some and oppression for others.
The United Church of Christ and its predecessor churches have made a priority commitment to supporting policies and structures that make real our Christian commitment to racial justice. The UCC’s emphasis means more than simply challenging personal prejudices but involves a commitment to in-depth analysis of societal policies and structures that either work toward the elimination of racism or perpetuate it.
During General Synod 23 an addendum was added to the 1993 Pronouncement calling the UCC to become a Multiracial, Multicultural Church. The addendum called the UCC to also become an “Anti-Racist” denomination. In doing so, we encourage all Conferences and Associations and local churches of the UCC to adopt anti-racism mandates, including policy that encourages anti-racism programs for all UCC staff and volunteers (p. 4 of the Guide)
The Process for Becoming a Racial Justice Church (GUIDE): New Hampshire Conference, United Church of Christ (NHCUCC) Racial Justice Mission Group
Our Racial Justice Steering Committee (RJSC) has been at work for a couple weeks, reviewing the NHCUCC guide and considering how we might best move forward with our call. The six of us had participated in the book discussion group that read Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye and Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me and were excited about our next steps. Taking the lead from the Racial Justice Mission Group (authors of the UCC Guide), we adopted their call which asked that we be:
LEARNERS in a community of mutual accountability studying the historic and continuing impact of white privilege and slavery on racism; INTERRUPTERS of the continued cycle of racism; and ALLIES with People of Color in challenging race-based injustice in the areas of criminal justice, environmental degradation, economic deprivation, and exclusion from full participation. We think that these three diversity roles fit well with a “time frame lens” that would look at racial justice from three perspectives: historical, present day, and future action. With the historical perspective we will be learners seeking create a common understanding. With the current perspective, we will explore current events and issues with the intent of becoming interrupters and advocates. With the future perspective, we will look at our church’s social impact and our potential role in our greater communities.
Within this framework, we discussed the need to consider local and national and transnational settings, as well as various racial and ethnic groups, and issues of social class. We want to be thoughtful of various types of learners in our congregation who would resonate with different types of methods and medium. We also want to be mindful of the many challenges of our current environment (pandemic, politics, and holiday season around the corner), and look for ways to integrate our plan with the church’s organizational life. There are so many ways to find synergy with our Sunday services, our ministry, our committees, our communication, and our Christian Education.
Sunday Service Moments for Social Justice
As we together walk humbly on a racial justice path, we thought it might be helpful to have various members of the congregation share a reflection of their own racial justice journey – a story of awakening, that is intended to help each of us in our own self-reflection.