In response to one of the greatest moral challenges of our time, a group of leaders in our church committed to study, discuss, pray, and seek God’s guidance on how we might respond to questions raised about racial equity and justice. We read books, watched videos, and discussed our personal experiences related to race and discovered how much we have to learn.
Session Proposal Four members of our group addressed Session proposing we make racial and social justice a two-year, strategic goal of our church, with the following threefold emphasis:
Essential Components Our approach will be biblical and invitational. Education is essential. We have learned that it takes a shared vocabulary in order to carry on a meaningful and productive conversation about racial concerns. Relationship building is necessary to understand the experiences of others whose lives may be different than our own. Community participation is required for racial equality and justice to be advanced throughout our immediate community—in education, health care, leadership representation, housing, policing, and income disparities.
Pastor’s Challenge I, Dale, am proud that we have made this commitment as a congregation. But a commitment is only as good as our follow through. I am concerned that our efforts will be taken up by a concentrated few rather than by all of us. Of course, we come to this subject from different points of view, with different senses of urgency, and our approach can vary from individual to individual. But it is important we take this journey together and share what we learn as a whole church. Therefore, as your pastor, I ask of you to take one step—at least one—to learn more and to grow in your understanding of racial and social justice. If, among the educational opportunities presented, you don’t see an avenue to participate, ask one of our team members and we will help you find one or create one. Please, choose at least one and let’s open our hearts and minds to what Jesus might have us do.
Included in Session’s motion was the formation of an Anti-Racism and Social Justice Team to provide leadership and coordination of this goal to be led by elder Laurel Quast and team members: Keedra Carroll, Penny Cleary, Dale Flowers, Michelle Huntley, Kathy Karlen, Rich Mason, Paul Palmatier, Peter Schell, Allie Shoulders, Tim Stafford, Emily Stockert, Jan Thomas, Mark Thomas, Paula Umino, and Lesley Van Dordrecht.
There’s a fundamental puzzle in the Bible, and also in our experience of 21st century life. According to Scripture God has chosen to use human beings as his instruments to set the world right—to spread his good news that brings justice and wholeness everywhere. And yet, as the Bible and history teach us, God’s chosen people are more often the problem than the solution. And, we don’t see justice and wholeness everywhere—to say the least. What is God doing?
In this class we will examine this puzzle first by looking at the biblical documents. We’ll study what the Bible tells us about God’s justice through law and gospel, while also considering God’s chosen people in both Old and New Testaments to see the part they played. Then we’ll skip forward to American slavery and racism, talk about God’s justice in that context, and discuss the good, the bad and the ugly in the American Christian response. (Those familiar with The Color of Compromise will know some of this story.)
Finally, we’ll try to make sense of God’s purposes in this world, consider his promises to set it right, and ask what we can hope for.
This 6-week class will be offered in building and on Zoom. The starting date and time will be announced soon.
Many movies raise issues worth discussing and provide insight into situations and worldviews that are different from our own. Movies invite us to step into the shoes of others and imagine how their experiences have shaped them, if only briefly. A well crafted movie with a compelling story arc naturally invite deeper conversation.
In isolation, we have moved from our usual format of sharing a meal, viewing the film and then discussing it to watching in a movie in advance and then meeting at an assigned time on Zoom. Because anti-racism and social justice are of urgent concern for all disciples of Christ, we are also using this period to view films that teach us and move us to great understanding and participate in reconcilliation.
Literature Discussion Group Sign Up
Click here to sign up!
Wednesdays at 7pm
Please view in advance of our discussion nights. To RSVP to join us or to arrange a loan of the DVD, Email Allie Shoulders or call her at 707-890-8010.
The Color of Compromise Discussion Group
Are you interested in joining the conversation about race? Please consider journeying with us as we go through The Color of Compromise by Jemar Tisby. This work tells the history of race in our Country thought the lens of the Church. Pastor Thabiti Anyabwile wrote that; “ Jemar Tisby points courageously toward the open sore of racism - not with the resigned pessimism of the defeated but with the resilient hope of Christian faith.”
This material is available as an electronic audio book or an eBook from the Sonoma County library, as DVDs which can be purchased or loaned, by streaming or as a paper book. The book and the videos cover the same material so any format you choose will give you plenty to join our discussion group. If you have questions about how to access this material in any of the formats or would like a scholarship to purchase this material, please contact Mark Thomas at (707) 292-5788 or by email.
Your weekly (approximately 40 minute) investment will be to watch a short video (or two) or to read or listen to a chapter or two before our Wednesday evening meetings. We will have discussion questions for each week and will use our time together to share our reactions to this compelling material in conversations in Zoom community. We would love to have you join the conversation.
Our next book selection is Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche.
This book, a national bestseller, tells “story of two Nigerians making their way in the U.S. and the UK, raising universal questions of race, belonging, the overseas experience for the African diaspora and identity.” Since we read the book in advance, we wanted to give you a heads up now to prepare to attend.
The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson, Knopf Doubleday, 2011
This book is a historical account of the movement of African Americans from the Southern States to the Midwest, Northeast and West. This historical period is called the Great Migration. It took place between 1915-1970. This book features the history of the event, a history which most of us did not learn, and the personal stories of three Black Americans and their transition to life outside of the South. While based on much historical research, at times it reads like a novel. It is also available in audiobook.
Recommended by Tim Stafford
The Color of Law: a Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America by Richard Rothstein, Liveright, 2017
I thought I knew the history of racism in America pretty well. Rothstein brings out a history I knew nothing about: the way in our government--yours and mine--created segregated housing right up until almost last week. Rothstein is a lawyer, and he deals in facts. Point by point he shows how our government made it extremely difficult for Black people to buy a house. Quite a few of the cases he details are right here in the Bay Area. This has huge implications: segregated housing leads to segregated schools, leads to run-down neighborhoods full of crime and health hazards, leads to a failure to accumulate wealth. If you don't want to believe in systemic racism, you shouldn't read this book.
What We Are Reading
Recommended by Emily Stockert
When Stars are Scattered by Victoria Jameison and Omar Mohamed, Dial Books, 2020
I would like to recommend a graphic novel that I recently read together with my daughter. While not strictly about racism in America, this book made me examine my privilege as a white American in a new way and has influenced our family conversations about privilege and justice in a way that has moved us towards more activism. When Stars Are Scattered is a true portrait of the life of young boy in Kenyan refugee camp as told by a Somali refugee. Don’t let the comic book style fool you – When Stars Are Scattered is an extraordinary book for all ages.
Little Leaders, Bold Women in Black History by Vashti Harrison, Little, Brown 2017 This is a beautiful book that lists 40 remarkable black women for young readers. There also is a book that lists remarkable black men that is great for older child and adult. The author states that during one black history month, she decided to do a summary of the highlights from the lives of these women herself. She shares the stories of a very small percentage of the remarkable black women in history.
Recommended by Paul Palmatier
Letter From a Birmingham Jail by Martin Luther King, Jr., Penguin, reprinted 2018
Dr. King wrote this letter in response to criticism of his actions by eight white members of the clergy, which had been printed in a local paper. At that time, Dr. King had been asked to come to Birmingham, and he was in jail after being arrested for civil, nonviolent disobedience
A key message that had an impact on me was that he felt that the silence of the white church was even more troubling than the action of the extremist segregationists such as the KKK. Dr. King says that the silence of the white moderates amounts to support for the continuing acts of violence and injustice against the black community.
As I reflect on the circumstances and the killing of unarmed black citizens over the past several years, I have become aware of the inequality of institutional racism, the redlining of sections of cities, the white privilege of the GI bill, and the open and subtle injustices of our America. I believe it is important for me to become better educated and aware, and to not be silent.
Recommended by Kathy Karlen
Recommended by Mark Thomas
White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism, by Robin DiAngelo, Beacon Press, 2018
This is an uncomfortable but valuable book for white folks to read. The author says early in the book of most white people that 'Given our racial insulation, coupled with misinformation, any suggestion that we are complicit in racism is a kind of unwelcome and insulting shock to the system.' This book is the kind of shock that I needed, and I think many of us who live in Sonoma County where we have almost no contact with black people could use.
Recommended by Laurel Quast