A Prayer for this Time of Race Injustice, Violence, and Trauma

Jesus, we come before you with heavy hearts. 

We lament that racial injustice is so tragically common in our society. 
We lament that precious lives are lost because of hate and ignorance. 
We lament the prejudice, violence, and racism that mocks your teachings. 
We lament that the Church has too often stayed silent in the face of racism.
We lament that the climate crisis disproportionately impacts People of Color. 
We lament that racial justice has become polarizing in our society.
We lament that some church leaders have spoken foolish and hateful words which support the systemic racism that is a cancer to our world.

Forgive us, oh Lord, for our complicity in these injustices.

Please open our ears to listen and our hearts to hear.  And close the mouths of those who would speak foolishness.  Lord Jesus, we need you in this time of racial anxiety.

Becoming Beloved Community

Racial inequality is the imbalance of power, economic resources, and opportunity that exists between people of color and people who are white. It is a reality we experience daily in our 21st-century world and that we are called to resist and strive to overcome as we live out our baptismal covenant to:

Persevere in resisting evil, and whenever we fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord.

Proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ.

Seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbors as ourselves.

Strive for justice and peace among all people and respect the dignity of every human being.

Becoming Beloved Community is the name of the vision presented by Episcopal Church leaders in 2017 that “frames a path for Episcopalians to address racial injustice and grow as a community of reconcilers, justice-makers, and healers who share a passion for the dream of God.” It provides a framework for the formational work of truth-telling, proclamation, discipleship, and reconciliation.

In the Episcopal Church in Colorado, many of our congregations are eager to begin or to go deeper into this work, work that asks us to challenge our assumptions, look deeply within ourselves, and commit to God’s vision. Perhaps your congregation has held adult forums to understand current events and share personal stories. Maybe you’ve participated in dismantling racism training or begun identifying and seeking ways to repair dysfunctional systems and institutions in our communities. Regardless of where you are on this journey, it is important to understand that the work of racial reconciliation–of racial justice and healing–will not be finished in our lifetimes, and we must commit to this work as a way of being as well as doing. We suggest you begin where you are.

Who can help us in this work?

Mentors, Coaches, Advisors

Darren Armstrong, Race Task Force chair
Michelle Auerbach Cole, Parishioner, St. Paul’s, Lakewood
Anthony Suggs, Missioner for Advocacy and Social Justice and Race Task Force leader

Faith Formation Team (Resources)

Greg Foraker, Missioner for Faith Formation
Tracy Methe, Faith Formation Coordinator
Elizabeth Cervasio, Director of Children and Youth Ministry

Communications Support

Mike Orr, Director of Communications

Resources to Help Equip and Empower You to Engage in the Work of Becoming Beloved Community

Click on the following areas to access information and resources.

Realities Intensive: Becoming Beloved Community at Cathedral Ridge

This event, originally scheduled for May 2020, has been postponed until the fall. For more information, please contact Tracy Methe.

Please note that the dates for this event have changed to accommodate our speaker’s schedule.

This is a weekend for educating, empowering, and equipping race justice and healing leaders and advocates to guide congregations in becoming beloved community. The weekend is led by Catherine Meeks, PhD, Chair of the Beloved Community: Commission for Dismantling Racism for the Diocese of Atlanta; and hosted by the Office of the Bishop. This is a great weekend for clergy and lay leaders from congregations to attend together.

$150 per person + $75 for optional Saturday overnight

Register now >

Yes! We are called by scripture, by our Baptismal Covenant, by the Church, and by our human need for wholeness and communities of love to seek Beloved Community.

What does the Episcopal Church say?

“As the Episcopal branch of the Jesus Movement, we dream and work to foster Beloved Communities where all people may experience dignity and abundant life and see themselves and others as beloved children of God. The Becoming Beloved Community Vision Document and accompanying resources help us to understand and take up the long-term commitments necessary to form loving, liberating, and life-giving relationships with each other. Together, we are growing as reconcilers, justice-makers, and healers in the name of Christ.”

Becoming Beloved Community Vision document (English) and Spanish

As we in the Episcopal Church strive to become beloved community, we are called also to remember and acknowledge the racism and bias that has existed in our own institution.

What does scripture say?

We need look no further than the greatest commandment. When asked which commandment in the law was the greatest, Jesus replied, “’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ (Matthew 22:36-40) In loving God with all our being, and in loving others as ourselves, we live into God’s vision for us.

Race and racial inequality affects all aspects of daily life: healthcare, education, work and income, and legal status. For statistics on race and socioeconomic wellbeing in Colorado, see the findings of the Race Task Force presented at the 2017 Diocesan Convention. This inequality has its roots in enslavement and has been propagated by ostracism and negative rhetoric.

Racial inequality continues to exist because of imbalances found in systemic norms and leadership structures, intentional and unintentional biases, a lack of awareness of the history of our communities and institutions, and barriers to understanding such as white privilege and white fragility.

How does it affect people?

Racial inequality relies on unjust power structures. These structures mean people without power find difficulty living into their full potential. People with power experience advantages they often take for granted. It means that all of us, as God’s children, experience disconnection, fear, anxiety, and lack of wholeness.

Words can call up biases, create defensiveness, and cause people to simply shut down–the opposite of what we need as we seek to become beloved community. Following are definitions of some frequently used words and phrases that can help us speak a common language.

Racism: Individual- and group-level processes and structures that are implicated in the reproduction of racial inequality (Clair and Denis Sociology on Racism). Systemic racism occurs when these structures or processes are carried out by groups with power, such as governments, businesses or schools.

Bias: Conscious or unconscious prejudice against an individual or group based on their identity.

White privilege: Inherent advantages possessed by a white person on the basis of their race in a society characterized by racial inequality and injustice. What is White Privilege, Really? seeks to define the term through a discussion of its history and implications.

White fragility: The defensiveness of white people, stemming from emotions like anger, fear, and guilt, that manifests itself in behaviors such as argumentation and silence, thereby preventing meaningful dialogue.

Racial reconciliation: The spiritual practice of seeking loving, liberating, and life-giving relationship with God and one another, and striving to heal and transform injustice and brokenness in ourselves, our communities, institutions, and society (Episcopal Church website).

Social justice: Justice in terms of the distribution of wealth, opportunities, and privileges within a society.

In his memoir No Future Without Forgiveness, the Archbishop Desmond Tutu describes people with ubuntu: People with ubuntu are those who “understand that they belong in a greater whole and are diminished when others are diminished or humiliated or tortured or oppressed, or treated as if they were less than who they are.” How can individuals strive to have ubuntu and participate in the work of racial reconciliation?

In the article 4 Steps White People Can Take Towards Racial Reconciliation, the following process is laid out:

  1. Awareness/Recognition: Be aware that the playing field is not level.
  2. Listen/Immerse: Learn to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. We can learn a lot by listening to and immersing ourselves in cultures different from our own.
  3. Risk and Relationship: It’s okay to hurt and be hurt. Be open to friendship with people who look different than you.
  4. Risk and Structures: Caring about people means caring about the situations they’re in. Become an ally. The role of an ally is not to give handouts to victims of racism in a paternalistic sense, but rather to speak out against systems of oppression and to challenge other majority culture people to do the same.

Commit

The first step in supporting this work is to acknowledge that we have not yet achieved racial reconciliation and to commit to building beloved community. We recommend creating a vision and forming a leadership team. Take small steps, reassess, and keep going.

The Litany for Repentance and Commissioning for the Ministry of Justice and Reconciliation can be used to commit to and begin this work.

What is the history of racial inequity? What stories have you been telling yourself about race? How has racism been present in your community, your state, the Church? Education is the opportunity to correct misperceptions, understand complexities, and learn different points of view.

We especially recommend the following resources:

For fresh, inspiring perspectives about race in America and how to build beloved community: Living into God’s Dream: Dismantling Racism in America, edited by Dr. Catherine Meeks, uses a series of essays from various authors to look at the state of dismantling racism in the U.S. today. Themes include reasons for past failures to achieve racial reconciliation, the need to honor rage and grief as part of the healing process, the meaning of white privilege, and what blacks must do to forward the work of reconciliation. This is a good resource for individuals and small groups looking for an honest depiction of racial inequality and the ongoing work of reconciliation. Catherine says, “The work of dismantling racism is most effective when engaged as spiritual formation. It is ongoing in the same way that keeping spiritual disciples of prayer, silence, and Bible study might embraced. It requires patience because it cannot be done in a short period of time.”

For seeing how dehumanizing others is used to support structures of power: Less than Human: Why We Demean, Enslave, and Exterminate Others by David Livingstone Smith explores the way people have created a hierarchy of value and dehumanized their fellow humans to rob them of their worth. Read the NPR author interview >

For an understanding of how to reconcile the message of Jesus and violence towards blacks: The Cross and the Lynching Tree by theologian James Cone explores the symbols of the cross and the lynching tree and their interconnection in the history of African American people. From Goodreads: “Both the cross and the lynching tree represent the worst in human beings and at the same time a thirst for life that refuses to let the worst determine our final meaning. While the lynching tree symbolized white power and black death, the cross symbolizes divine power and black life, God overcoming the power of sin and death. For African Americans, the image of Jesus, hung on a tree to die, powerfully grounded their faith that God was with them, even in the suffering of the lynching era.”

For a deeper understanding of white privilege: In Seeing My Skin: A Story of Wrestling with Whiteness author Peter Jarrett-Schell looks at the way Whiteness has distorted his perceptions, relationships, and sense of self. He challenges readers to look at the role of race in their own lives and the stakes we have in dismantling racism.

For a look at the way white fragility limits dialogue: In White Fragility antiracist educator Robin DiAngelo examines how white fragility develops, how it protects racial inequality, and what we can do to engage more constructively.

For a new perspective on the history of the slave trade in the United States: The film Traces of the Trade tells the story of Producer and Director Katrina Browne’s slave-trading forefathers and debunks the myth that the South is solely responsible for slavery. Browne and her family members explore the history and geography of their past and pose the question of what spiritual and material repair of the past might look like. View trailer >

For an inspiring story of the fight for human rights and racial equality. Nelson Mandela’s autobiography Long Walk to Freedom tells about Mandela’s work as president of the African National Congress and head of South Africa’s antiapartheid movement, and his role in moving the nation toward multiracial government and majority rule.

For a look at injustice in our criminal justice system and our ability to make a difference. In Just Mercy Bryan Stevenson tells the story of a young man sentenced to die for a crime he didn’t commit and Stevenson’s transformative journey on his behalf toward justice and mercy.

Additional Resources

ChurchNext offers five courses to help individuals and groups understand the work of race justice:

The Episcopal Church website has curated an extensive list of books, articles, and websites that can be explored by individuals, study groups, and ministry leadership. View resources >

The Soul2Soul Sisters website provides a broad spectrum of resources on the many facets of racism. Included are links to organizations working to end it.

Worship and Prayer

Worship unites us and helps empower us for the work of reconciliation. Consider incorporating Prayers for Reconciliation and Justice into your Sunday worship.

Welcoming Others

Radical Welcome: Embracing God, The Other, and the Spirit of Transformation by Stephanie Spellers is a guide for congregations wanting to move behind inclusivity to a place where “welcoming ‘The Other’ is taken seriously and where engaging god’s mission becomes more than just a catch-phrase.”

Keeping the Conversation Going

A leadership team within your church can focus and guide the work of your congregation and encourage others. We recommend thoroughly exploring the Becoming Beloved Community resources as well as engaging your leadership in a Dismantling Racism Course. In addition, explore the work of the Colorado Race Task Force and discern ways your congregation might become involved in this work. Following are workshops, practices, and curricula for carrying out the work of racial reconciliation.

Racism Through the Lens of White Privilege: A Spiritual Conquest (workshop)
A spiritual quest is the longing to become our true selves. This longing requires us to look deep within for hidden or rejected parts of ourselves. It is not comfortable to discover we are not who we thought we were. This is what happened to Rev. Jane E. Vennard when she came face to face with her white privilege. The purpose of this workshop is to explore white privilege as a way to know ourselves more fully and to explore racism with integrity.

Becoming Beloved Community
Becoming Beloved Community…Where You Are “is not a curriculum to be taught and completed, but a life-long way of being that promotes and helps us become Beloved Community.” The process is made up of four interwoven practices that invite reflection and action. Symbolically represented by a  labyrinth, individuals and congregations can move from one to the next and back again:

  • Telling the Truth: What racial/cultural/ethnic groups are in our church? Who have we excluded or included?
  • Proclaiming the Dream: How has our city/town/area participated in racial injustice or healing over time? What’s happening today? What is our dream for Beloved Community? What behaviors and practices foster it?
  • Practicing the Way: How will we grow as reconcilers, healers, and justice-bearers? What activities, practices, learning and experiences would (trans)form us? How will we share stories and grow relationship?
  • Repairing the Breach: What institutions and systems bear the signs of racial injustice? How will we participate in the repair, restoration and healing of people, institutions and systems?

Each practice includes a recommended list of resources that can be explored in adult forums and study groups.

Dismantling Racism
The Diocese of Atlanta has developed the course Dismantling Racism, which is offered to diocesan and congregational leaders committed to bringing this work to their dioceses. Workshops are offered in the Diocese of Georgia, and workshop leaders are available to travel to Colorado. A version of Dismantling Racism is also available to youth leaders. It is made up of six lessons: Introduction and Covenant; God, the Artist; History of Racism in America: How we Got Here; White Privilege, Internalized Oppression; and Repentance, Healing, and Reconciliation. Youth leaders wishing to use the course with their youth must first participate in the Dismantling Racism adult curriculum and complete the youth course.

If you are interested in participating in a workshop in Colorado, please contact the Office of Faith Formation.

Soul 2 Soul Sisters
Soul 2 Soul Sisters calls itself “a fiercely faith-based, Black Womxn-led, racial justice organization focused on Black healing and Black liberation.” Soul 2 Soul regularly offers the workshop Facing Racism for cohorts of 20 mostly white people from various religious traditions. Integrating spiritual, ritual, and ancestral fields with anti-racism education toward action, Facing Racism provides:

  • Sacred space for participants to learn and share deeply about race and racism
  • A range of racial and theological analyses
  • Information about reproductive injustices against Black people in the United States historically and presently
  • Vocabulary that is used frequently in discussing anti-Black racism
  • A myriad of diverse anti-Black racism resources
  • Opportunities to cultivate relationships with white accountability partners for continued anti-racism work
  • An affirming space for participants to develop and implement personal and collective plans for eradicating white supremacy.

Episcopal Church in Colorado Race Task Force

The mission of the Race Task Force is to address and deconstruct the institutional and structural racism in the leadership bodies of the church and our broader society. Following Diocesan Convention in 2017, in response to feedback, we are in the process of adding additional dimensions to our mission. To learn more or get involved in the Race Task Force, contact Anthony Suggs, Missioner for Advocacy and Social Justice at Advocacy@EpiscopalColorado.org.

Soul  2 Soul Sisters

Soul 2 Soul Sisters is the creator of Let My People Vote, a national Black Womxn-led, faith-based, voter engagement campaign that seeks to:

  • promote awareness of political issues impacting Black people
  • increase the power of Black communities
  • enfranchise all voting-age Black people
  • and cultivate robust and sustained Black political participation

Soul2Soul Sisters

Soul2Soul Sisters offers monthly Self-Love Saturdays for Black Womxn. These sessions provide sacred space for “centering the life, love, health, and wellness of Black Womxn.”

Raising Race-Conscious Children provides adults with resources for discussing race with young children. “The goals of these conversations are to dismantle the color-blind framework and prepare young people to work toward racial justice.”