Racial Justice and Healing at Grace Church
Through the prompting of the Holy Spirit, many of us at Grace Church have discerned a fresh commitment to the call for racial justice and healing. As Christ has sealed us through baptism to strive for justice and to respect the dignity of every human being, God calls us to recognize that the work of racial reconciliation must continue; it is work we all must do.
Our parish has decided to take more intentional, deliberate steps to grow our community of reconcilers, justice-makers, and healers. We are expanding our education and formation opportunities on racial justice and healing, and have fully embraced the broader Episcopal Church’s Becoming Beloved Community framework, represented by the labyrinth above, to follow Jesus into a more loving, liberating, life-giving relationship with God and with each other.
What is Becoming Beloved Community?
Becoming Beloved Community is the Episcopal Church’s long-term commitment to racial healing, reconciliation and justice, called forth by General Convention Resolution C019, providing that, “despite repeated efforts at anti-racism training as well as racial justice and racial reconciliation initiatives including the passage of more than 30 General Convention resolutions dating back to 1952, the abomination and sin of racism continue to plague our society and our Church at great cost to human life and human dignity; we formally acknowledge our historic and contemporary participation in this evil and repent of it.”
Becoming Beloved Community provides a positive, theologically and biblically based ideal around which Episcopalians may address racial injustice and grow. It is not so much a particular set of programs as it is an invitation to take up your cross and follow the loving, liberating, and life-giving way of Jesus toward racial reconciliation. The labyrinth is used as a way to visualize this journey: the quadrants of (1) Proclaiming the Dream of a community in which all are loved, (2) Telling the Truth about racism, (3) Practicing the Way of love to build bridges and see Christ in all persons, and (4) Repairing the Breach where individuals, systems and institutions have been broken, will be explored. You may walk these quadrants many times, gaining new insights and identifying new challenges with each visit.
What Does Becoming Beloved Community Look Like at Grace Church?
As part of the journey towards Becoming Beloved Community, Grace has and will continue to:
- offer antiracist education and formation activities;
- gather and distribute racial reconciliation resources;
- highlight opportunities for action to confront and dismantle racism; and
- measure our participation in these activities and be open to other transformative paths to which the Spirit leads us.
These initiatives include the following:
- Litany of Repentance for the Sin of Racism
- Seek, Grow, and Share Speaker Series
- Racial Justice and Healing Book Dialogue Groups
- Grace and Race History Project
- Sacred Ground
- Self-Guided Black History Tours
- Civil Discourse Training
LITANY OF REPENTANCE FOR THE SIN OF RACISM, JUNE 2020.
SEEK, GROW, AND SHARE SPEAKER SERIES
In the late summer and fall of 2020, Grace Church hosted nine speakers via Zoom on topics of antiracism and self-care. These experts and leaders invited us to seek truth together, grow in our practice of Jesus’ way of love, and share our experiences. Reflections on race, self-care, empathy, dignity, and more were explored. Many of our speakers have offered to make their recorded insights available to you here, free and on demand. We invite you to watch our speakers, to feel inspired, empowered, and ready to listen to how the Holy Spirit is working within us to forge paths to a better community, a Beloved Community.
Click on each of the presentation titles below to watch a video of their presentation or click here to view a complete playlist of all presentations.
8/23 – Elizabeth Jones Valderrama
“The Upstream and Downstream Work of OAR (Offender Aid and Restoration)”
9/20 – Rev. Hershey Mallette Stephens
“Becoming Beloved Community and the National Episcopal Church’s StorySharing Initiative“
9/27 – Sybil MacBeth
“How to Pray When Words Fail/Praying in Color“
10/4 – The Very Rev. Ian Markham, Dean of the Virginia Theological Seminary
“Slavery and Reparations at The Virginia Theological Seminary“
10/18 – Rev. Canon Paula E. Clark
“Dual Pandemics: Racism and Covid-19 in the Diocese of Washington“
10/25 – Eileen O’Grady, PhD, RN, NP
“Dignity as a Practice”
Recording unavailable, but please click here to visit Dr. O’Grady’s website for tips on extreme self-care.
11/1 – Rev. William Tweedley
“A Q&A on Self Care”
11/8 – Susan Sevier
“Learning to Tell Your Story“
11/15 – Rev. Dr. Patricia Lyons
“Evangelism as Self Care”
RACIAL JUSTICE & HEALING BOOK DIALOGUE GROUPS
Grace Church is facilitating multi-week discussions on books that examine multiple aspects of race and society. If you haven’t yet already done so, please consider reading these books and continue the conversations with other parishioners and friends.
White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo.
Grace dialogue group completed Fall 2020.
Love is the Way: Holding on to Hope in Troubling Times by Bishop Michael Curry.
Grace dialogue group anticipated completion Winter 2020-21.
GRACE & RACE HISTORY PROJECT
An essential part of our work for racial justice is to consciously share about the history and reality of race in a particular place. On October 4, 2020, the Very Reverend Ian Markham, Dean of the Virginia Theological Seminary, spoke of the efforts VTS has initiated to discover and provide reparations to the descendants of enslaved people who labored at the Seminary. They have set up a fund of $1.7 million and the work of research is ongoing.
Inspired by Dean Markham’s presentation, a group of parishioners is researching Grace Church’s participation in systems of racial injustice and racial healing over the years.
Prior to the Civil War, Alexandria was home to one of the largest slave-trading operations in the country. This photo was taken in 1863, eight years after the founding of Grace Church. The group will take advantage of the many historical resources available for the City of Alexandria, as well as archival church records, to answer questions about our past. We know that the architect of the original building on Patrick Street was W. B Price, Esq. The carpentry contractor was Delahay and Sons and the brick mason contractor was Reed and Brothers. We also know the members of the first Vestry of Grace, which was formed of members of the vestries of Christ Church and St. Paul’s as well as founding members of Grace. We can research those names in the 1850 Census and find out if they owned any enslaved people. We can find tax records and wills and find out if there are numbers and names of those people. We want to credit and honor those people whose unpaid work might have helped build our church.
We are working on lines of questions like the above and others, that take us from the earliest days of Grace Church and to the present. What are moments to build on with pride and what are more painful things that we could acknowledge and learn from? At Grace Church, we are interested in speaking the truth about our past.
Grace will host several Sacred Ground Circles. The first are anticipated to begin in February 2021.
What Is Sacred Ground?
Sacred Ground was developed by the Episcopal Church as part of Becoming Beloved Community. It is a 10-part film and readings-based dialogue series on race, grounded in faith, discussed in small groups called “circles,” consisting of no more than 10 parishioners, including two trained congregant facilitators. These circles create safe spaces for difficult but respectful and transformative dialogue on race and racism, by examining Sacred Ground’s powerful, thought-provoking and prayerful curriculum. Its documentary films and readings focus on Indigenous, Black, Latino, and Asian/Pacific American histories as they intersect with European American histories, walking through chapters of America’s history of race and racism, while weaving in threads of family story, economic class, and political and regional identity.
Is it for me?
It has been described as a life-changing experience by those who have gone through the series. Democrats, Republicans, these conversations are meant for all of us – we are one community in Christ!
Who is doing Sacred Ground?
Across America, there are currently over 1165 registered Sacred Ground circles – an impressive total since the program’s inception approximately two years ago. We plan to join these ranks and start Sacred Ground circles at Grace Church, virtually at first, and, over time, in person. One parish in Massachusetts started out with one Sacred Ground circle that met for 10 months, and the following year it had ten circles running concurrently with a total of 100 people participating!
SELF-GUIDED BLACK HISTORY TOURS IN ALEXANDRIA
To further our exploration of Telling the Truth and Proclaiming the Dream, parishioners may be interested in exploring on their own the City of Alexandria’s seven new trails and tours, including driving tours, on Black history. We are blessed with rich history in our city — and these new tours, markers and more will lead you through largely outdoor sites and stories both harrowing and hopeful. Alexandria is a new member of the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience, which connects past struggles to today’s movements for human rights. From a waterfront heritage trail to a tour telling stories of the Underground Railroad, Alexandria provides great opportunities to explore and expand awareness of Black history, the legacy of racism, and dreams of a more Beloved Community.
CIVIL DISCOURSE TRAINING AND ENGAGEMENT
To fully promote racial justice and healing, we must Repair the Breach, and look into societal institutions and policies that need to change to liberate us from the sin and legacy of racism. This will require engaging with people who may have different views from our own. This type of engagement can be challenging, as anyone who has ever prayed, “Lord make me an instrument of your peace,” and then found yourself in a complex and polarized situation where peace seemed impossible, knows all too well.
To help us find that grace-filled space where we can learn from one another through our Christian lens of respecting the dignity of every human being, the national Episcopal Church, in partnership with ChurchNext and others, developed “Make Me an Instrument of Peace: A Guide to Civil Discourse.”
Peacebuilding involves learning from and working with others, while also sharing different perspectives and vulnerability. Bishop Curry says, “Love your Democratic neighbor, love your Republican neighbor, love your independent neighbor.” Civil discourse helps us to understand how we can engage with people who have different views from our own and lays out the value for doing so. Make Me an Instrument of Peace: A Guide to Civil Discourse aims to enhance our ability to learn from and understand one another, and to apply that practice to public policy conversations.
We encourage independent and group study of this course, which is available for free on demand here. Each of the five self-paced classes in this course covers civil discourse in context, tenets for civil discourse, the complexities of policy, values based conversations, and sacred space for debate.
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace: where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy. O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console, to be understood as to understand, to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen