Our Let’s Talk article this week is by Rev. Cheryl Ward, inviting us to sacred and difficult conversations on race. This initiative is part of the work we have agreed to at our last Annual Gathering—a commitment to difficult conversations in the hopes of bringing awareness and forward movement in hearing other stories and seeing how we are called individually and together to work for racial justice and equality. We invite your participation in this work. Please click HERE to respond to a brief survey indicating your interest and availability to be part of these small group conversations in the new year. Responding to the survey will help us determine interest and the number of groups we will create. In the next week or so we will be sending out an invitation to register for these groups based on survey responses so please respond as soon as possible to help us plan.
When I was a little girl, my family and I sat at the table each evening to have dinner and discuss the events of the day. When I was approximately seven years old, we moved to a new neighborhood where I attended a school with children from many different backgrounds. I immediately made friends with a little girl who lived across the street from me, and we played together every day after school. It wasn’t long before I was told I could not come inside her house because her father did not like “Negro’s” – the term used at the time to identify African Americans. That night at dinner, I asked my parent’s why my friend’s father did not like me? They did their best to offer an explanation of prejudice and racism in a manner which my seven-year-old mind could comprehend.
As I got older, our family dynamics changed, and we no longer sat together in the evenings to have dinner. Our family discussions became far and few in between, and my friends and neighbors gradually became all African American. By the time I enrolled in Seminary in Berkeley, I found that I was often the only African American in many of my courses. It was a totally different world that gave me a clear view of the “real” world. I enrolled in classes throughout the various schools in the Graduate Theological Union and made a few lifelong friends with persons of various ethnicities. However, it also became clear to me, the ways I was viewed as “invisible,” as there was a scarce number of Professors who looked like me or taught theological subjects from a Liberation Theology or Womanist perspective.
As the current climate in this country has changed, I find myself having more conversations about race – especially with my friends and acquaintances of different cultures and backgrounds. At times, it is difficult and painful, as we discuss our differences and lack of understanding of the challenges of persons of color. What if our churches decided to host “Courageous Conversations,” where we developed a safe space, that would respect feelings and thought processes, allowing individuals to speak transparently about race? What if the church took the lead in assisting us in talking, the way my family did, around the table, in love?
Let’s Talk About Race! Next month, we will begin such conversations in the various areas of our Association. Each week, we will hold virtual conversations about stereotypes, privilege, language, the ways we interact on our jobs, as well as in community – but especially in our churches – where many of us still maintain a segregated gathering on Sunday mornings. Let’s discuss ways to integrate and understand one another, so the next generation can witness us doing so. Are we open to hear?…God is still speaking!