Led by Claire Stiles and Pastor Kim, a group of beloved brothers and sisters in Christ came together each week for 5 weeks to study and respond to “A Pastoral Letter on Racism from the UCC.” This letter acknowledges that racism remains “a wound in the heart of our nation and cannot be washed away or treated carelessly.” The word conversation emerges throughout this letter and challenges us, as members of the United Christ, to open our hearts and minds in a dialogue of faith, truth, understanding, love, compassion, forgiveness. In doing so we can “find the courage to raise our voices for justice and make America and the church all that they out to be.”
One of the initial articles our group read, taken from the Washington Post, was entitled “Across America whites are biased and don’t even know it.”
This may or may not have come as a surprise for some of us, but one thing was for certain, our conversations were deeply sincere as we shared experiences, observations, and responses. We all recognized or came to recognize that racism remains in our lives, in our communities, in our churches and in our institutions, such as our schools and the criminal justice system.
During our conversations, Pastor Kim gave us a history of the United Church of Christ and its early and continuous role in challenging racism. Bill Parsons along with other long time members shared action steps and events LUCC took in making LUCC an active community leader in racial justice, inclusion, and healing.
Our group engaged in a white privilege walk that led to a conversation on white freedom—the freedom to move around. This activity was especially revealing to me as I reflected on this quote from Peggy McIntosh’s article: “My schooling gave me no training in seeing myself as an oppressor, as unfairly advantaged person, or as a participant in a damaged culture.” I had always seen myself as kind, compassionate and guided by a heart filled with hope and seeking justice.
In each meeting, our conversations continued with prayerful hearts, and sometimes a sprinkle of needed humor. The clock became our only challenge– and it also a reminder that the conversation cannot easily be silenced, nor can it end.
From this dialogue we each came away with a renewed understanding and faith. We also came away with a new energy and voice.
These are some action words taken from the final meeting: Listen, Give, Explore, Engage, Speak, Forgive, Compassion, Encourage, Partner, Write, Work, Invite. To these words I add: “Imagine Justice.”
The words and initiatives taken from our final Sacred Conversation lead us to a quote from the UCC literature: “Understand that this conversation is not a one-time event, but a continuing journey.”
In closing, and in offering a collaborative voice for our discussion group, I offer these words from the Rev. MLK, Jr. that were printed in our material: “Our goal is to create a beloved community and this will require a qualitative change in our souls as well as a quantitative change in our lives.”
As members of LUCC, we can connect this to a line our closing song from each meeting and a closing song from our worship: “Weave us together in unity and love.” This song and the experience in sharing sacred conversations define us as members of LUCC who will continue the journey and will continue to reach out to each other in unity and love.