Lenten conversations on racism

ConRacismLogoHoriz.jpgGrace’s Faith Perspectives Committee is organizing book discussion groups or a Lenten-season conversation about racism. You can sign up for a group on Sunday mornings, February 12, 19 and 26. Here’s more information.

Why this? Why now?
“We, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another,” says the Apostle Paul in Romans 12:5. Racism is brokenness within the body. The Lenten journey of repentance provides an appropriate framework for learning about the persistence of racism in America.

Where did this idea come from?
Members of the Faith Perspectives Team spoke with pastors and members of other churches who have opened similar conversations in their own congregations; they also met with representatives of the ELCA Metro Chicago Synod’s Antiracism Task Force. The ELCA representatives suggested that the congregation center their conversation through a shared book discussion. Pastor Dave Lyle and Pastor Dave Wegner proposed that the conversation at Grace take the form of small discussion groups that meet throughout the season of Lent.

I don’t know if I am comfortable with this. The church shouldn’t be discussing this.
While the effects of racism may not be blatantly obvious in our own lives they are most certainly obvious in the lives of those who live mere miles from our own homes and church. But what might be even more daunting is the realization that a conversation on racism may challenge us to confront our own complacency, our passivity, and our acceptance of it. Holding these conversations within the context of our church community gives us the freedom and safety of acceptance, forgiveness, grace, love, and hope.

How will the small groups work?
Groups will be comprised of 8-10 people and will meet five times for about 90 minutes for discussion. Participants will read sections of the text in preparation for discussion each week.

What will we be reading?
After considering several titles the Faith Perspective Team has chosen “Waking Up White, and Finding Myself in the Story of Race,” by Debby Irving. Irving is frank and unwavering in her writing while carefully choosing her words and reminding readers that she does not speak for anyone but herself. She writes:

You may find my degree of candor jarring. Please know that at the heart of this work is speaking the unspeakable. A general understanding in the world of racial healing holds that beliefs gather steam and hurt most when they are left to fester unidentified and unacknowledged in people’s hearts and minds.

Again, the Lenten journey provides an important and helpful framework. The conversations in which those festering things are brought forward, named, and examined are surrounded by the promise of God’s mercy and grace through the cross.

Debby Irving is a white person. Shouldn’t we hear from someone of color?
This is just the first voice in our conversation. Following this initial study the Antiracism Task Force recommends adding additional resources and insights from authors of other races and experiences.

How do I sign up?
Faith Perspectives Team members will be in the Atrium on February 12, 19 and 26, helping participants choose a group that fits their schedule and passing out copies of the book.

What are the costs?
We have purchased 50 copies of the book through a Legacy of Grace grant request. After the 50 are claimed during signups, additional copies may be purchased through the church for $15.22, or you may purchase one elsewhere.

May I invite someone else, a non-Grace member perhaps?
Of course. If you know someone who would like to participate in one of the small groups, have them choose a group that meets on a day and time suitable for their schedule. Be sure their name gets added to the sign-up list so the group facilitators can expect them.

I can’t make every group meeting.
By posting the days and times each group will meet we hope you will be able to choose a group with a schedule that works for you throughout the study. If you have to miss a meeting of your own group, you might wish to “visit” another group for the week with advanced notice to that group’s facilitator.

What other ways will the topic of racism be addressed?
If you cannot join a small group for the book discussion, or aren’t sure where you might be on your own processing journey, you can still be involved. We’ll be sharing an Additional Resources page that will offer ways to be involved in the conversation. On Sunday mornings during Lent, our prayers will include language identifying and lifting up the brokenness that stems from racism.

What is going to happen after the book study?
On Sunday, April 23, all participants will gather for an evening potluck meal at the church. We will celebrate and give thanks for meaningful time together throughout the study, reflect on what we’ve learned, and begin to discern how God is calling us to continue addressing the issues and consequences of racism in our homes, workplaces, congregation, community, and country.

Watch for continued updates as Lent draws closer.