An Invitation to Conversations about Racism

“Which one of these is not like the others?” I stared at the pictures on the page: an apple, orange, banana...and tractor. Hmmmm: three fruits and a machine. Marking the tractor, I continued to the next question.

Looking at our Lenten offerings this year, I flashed back to a standardized logic test: a book group on a Christian classic, contemplative prayer practices, seasonal organ concerts….and a conversation on racism. Hmmmm. One of these is not like the others.

Our 5 week Wednesday evening series begins next week, 6:30-8 pm in the parish hall. “Get Woke: A Lenten Conversation on Racism” does stand out, and I want to offer some context. In 2016, the Episcopal Church in Colorado offered a workshop by Soul2Soul Sisters to learn about the emerging Black Lives Matter movement. A series of racially charged violence had dominated the news cycle: unarmed black youth killed by white civilians and police. Black men and women killed during routine traffic stops or in state custody. White police killed by black sniper. Historically black churches destroyed by arson.

Several members of Holy Comforter attended the workshop at diocesan convention, and we were deeply moved by the stories shared. We listened to Episcopalians across Colorado tell of their personal experiences with racism over the course of their lives. It got me thinking about my own encounter with prejudice: how my grandparents responded when I introduced them to my college boyfriend. Now Raj is Indian, but their profound discomfort based on his difference opened my eyes.

Our ability to notice differences is human. God created humankind to be wonderfully diverse. But when we as individuals, and as a society, assign values to human differences, we commit sin. Every person is a beloved child of God and deserves to be treated with dignity and respect.

Scientifically speaking, there is no such thing as race. Human beings of every skin color and ethnic origin are biologically the same: we are all homo sapiens. Race is a social construct, a way to group according to differences. Racism occurs when a society values one group over another. This is why racism is sin.

Historically, our country privileges white lives over black and brown. Founding documents and existing laws have served to institutionalize the sin of racism. The rising outcry to right these old wrongs is the origin of the Black Lives Matter movement.

As staff and vestry have prayerfully engaged this conversation in the last 18 months, I’ve remembered the opening scene from the movie The Ghost and the Darkness. The story begins with a husband reluctantly leaving for an extended work assignment in Africa. His wife comforts him as they say good-bye: “You’re a bridge-builder, John; you have to go where the rivers are.”

The mission of the church is to restore unity with God and each other in Christ (BCP 855). Christians are called to be bridge-builders, so we go where the rivers are. We wade into troubled waters with love and courage in order to build places of connection across differences.

Get Woke: A Lenten Conversation on Racism is our first opportunity as a congregation to have an important conversation about a sin that continues to wound our society. We welcome Lelanda Lee, an author of anti-racism training for the Episcopal Church, and William King, retired professor of Ethnic Studies at CU as guest presenters. Over the 5 week series, participants will learn about the Episcopal Church’s journey and commitment to racial reconciliation, how racism is perpetuated in contemporary law and society even after Civil Rights, and explore how we, as individuals and as a community of faith, might respond.

Let us embrace this chance to live into our name. I hope you’ll join me Wednesday: come early at 6 to enjoy a simple soup supper, and our conversation will begin at 6:30. Youth welcome. Childcare provided.

Mother Kim+