Racial Healing: How to Make 2018 a Year of Acknowledgment
By Maurice L. Harris
In the months since our October 10 Clergy Day, I have been peppered with questions from clergy and congregants alike who are eager to deepen their racial healing efforts. Clergy who participated in the event have asked, “What’s the next step?” Some who were unable to attend have inquired, “How can I get up to speed on what I missed?” And, finally, congregants who were aware of the event have wanted to know, “How can I benefit from the training?” As we set our spiritual intentions for the New Year, this may be a great time to address these questions.
To answer this question, it is necessary first to review the racial healing process developed by the diocese’s Racial Reconciliation Team (RRT) this past spring. As some Mountain readers may recall, the RRT participated in an overnight retreat at Mission Farm in Killington, Vermont on March 24 and 25. The purpose of the retreat was to customize a process for the diocese to build multicultural competency and to establish a set of projects with concrete objectives aimed at racial healing. The most exciting outcome of the retreat was the development of what is today called the Four-phase Racial Healing Process, which consists of Acknowledgment, Engagement, Reconciliation and Restoration. (Be sure to read the “Defining Acknowledgment” supplement!)
The RRT has suggested that the diocese dedicate at least a year to Acknowledgment.
The RRT has suggested that the diocese dedicate at least one year to each phase. The October 10 Clergy Day served as the official kickoff to the Acknowledgment phase. As part of that event, clergy were asked to consider how they might achieve Acknowledgment personally and within their congregations. This means, for some congregations, clergy may have already proposed a set of activities related to Acknowledgment. However, even if formal plans have not been announced at your local church, all congregants are invited to do the activities recommended in the Clergy Day syllabus, which is discussed in the next section. The syllabus can be downloaded here: https://www.diovermont.org/post.php?p=8748.
All congregants are invited to do the activities recommended in the Clergy Day syllabus!
Catching Up / Benefiting From Training
While Clergy Day attendance was strong, the RRT was aware that not all clergy in charge of congregations would be able to attend. With this in mind, a copy of the Clergy Day syllabus has been provided online. This is not to say that “homework” alone can replicate the power of the event. But it’s a good place to start. When it comes to Acknowledgment, (1) listening to first-person experiences with racism and (2) suspending the urge to jump to solutions based on one’s own assumptions about what marginalized communities need are key. This kind of experience that the syllabus is designed to stimulate. All members of the Episcopal Church in Vermont are invited to do the activities recommended in the syllabus paying special attention to the article, “For Our White Friends Desiring To Be Allies.” In the meantime, clergy can look forward to future racial healing events and are encouraged to contact the RRT for tips on localizing Acknowledgement for your congregation.
When it comes to Acknowledgment, listening to first-person experiences and suspending the urge to jump to solutions are key.
About the Author
Maurice L. Harris, diocesan communications minister, is a member of St. Michael’s Episcopal Church-Brattleboro and serves with the Rev. Robert Spainhour, rector of Holy Trinity-Swanton, as co-facilitator of the Racial Reconciliation Team.