(A Stewardship Sharing from a member of our Racial Justice Ministry Team)
The Racial Justice Ministry Team is the newest ministry team at Holy Trinity.
We were born out of SORROW and ANGER as we watched, as you all did, the tragic episodes of racial injustice displayed on our TV sets over and over again in the past few years. When we first met on ZOOM, we weren’t sure about what we were going to do. For a while, we didn’t know what to call ourselves. We just knew that we couldn’t turn a blind eye anymore and think that systemic racism is somebody else’s problem when it clearly belongs to all of us. “We have seen the enemy and THEY is US”.
We knew that there was a lot that we didn’t know and that we needed to expose ourselves to every bit of information we could. We joined the NC Synod’s Racial Justice Network and took the first course available. We read “Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man” and many more books, many of which you will soon see in our library for you to borrow. We got a lot of help from Fred and Sylvia Black and Louis Rivers who helped open our eyes to the reality from a black person’s point of view and shared their expertise. We got familiar with concepts like “implicit bias” and “white advantage” and “microaggression”. We listened and we looked at ourselves; we lamented, and we learned. And we started feeling less guilty and more energized. Because if people create systems, they can also change them. And that is what we are about.
We decided to begin to share some of our new understandings with the congregation at large, a difficult task in COVID times. But thanks to ZOOM and a lot of creativity we were able to produce the bi-weekly Conversations about Race on Sunday afternoons. Many of you have attended as we have looked at a wide range of issues. Each session is an hour long, has a topic with a short presentation and then small breakout groups for discussion. We hope that more of you will come to these in the future. It is a safe place to explore all the things you thought you knew as we try to deal with our life experiences and grow.
In the process of one conversation around Lenny Duncan’s book, “Dear Church – a Love Letter to the Whitest Denomination in America”, our youngest member, Camryn Kepley, then an LCM student, asked, “Could we support a person of color in seminary?”
That simple question started us on a journey of discovery about what the impediments really are for black Americans to consider a calling to ministry in our church.
Surprise – It’s not tuition!! That’s free. But the others are monumental. One of the most basic is that the essential groundwork hasn’t been done to identify, nurture and support potential candidates from that community. We started thinking that perhaps we could help to fund someone to do that. We met via ZOOM with Dr. Mary Shore, the Dean of the Seminary to run that idea by her. She was speechless. At that very moment, she had come to a similar conclusion and was struggling over how she might find funding for a part-time person of color to begin to do that work.
Some might say “What Serendipity”!! I think it was the work of the Holy Spirit that brought us together at such a crucial moment.
The details of our process from there was exciting and hope filled. Our Team was aware that our congregation had a surplus from the COVID Relief Money, and that, maybe, we could access some of it. We invited Dr. Shore to write a proposal that Holy Trinity and the Seminary partner in this work. We went to Council with that proposal, asking that $15,626 of the COVID surplus money be set aside to partner with the seminary for a half-time recruiter of color. They agreed, and so, in 2022, that program will be implemented. We have also committed to partner in this project in 2023, with our contribution being $10,000, and in 2024, when we will provide $5000. The seminary believes that after that, this position will be self-sustaining.
Now what has all this got to do with Stewardship?
It was only because the congregation has been so faithful in giving throughout this whole COVID period that Holy Trinity didn’t need to use that special fund to keep the lights on and pay the mortgage. We were not only ready and willing, but ABLE to enter this ground-breaking partnership with our Seminary to make inclusion and diversity a reality in our church for years to come.
So, when you fill out your pledge card, think about all the possibilities that lie before us to respond to the needs of God’s world. Remember that at Holy Trinity, “God’s Work, Our Hands” is not just a slogan. It’s who we are!. And when it comes to Time and Talent, come and join one of the Ministry Teams. Exciting things are happening there. We’d all love to have you.