by Rev. April Johnson, Reconciliation Ministry
“To bear witness means several things. First, it means you are aware of the experiences of others, and you have close enough relationships to witness the things persons of color experience that whites do not. To witness something, you have to actually be there. And to be there, you have to be around people experiencing it. This means you need to consciously cultivate relationships with people different from yourself.” Carolyn Helsel, “Anxious to Talk About It”
As we approach the Pentecost season, we are reminded of Jesus’ command to His disciples to go and bear witness, to tell the world of the Good News of Jesus Christ. The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) incorporates this command as our mission, to “be the Good News from our doorsteps to the ends of the earth.” Our efforts to accomplish this mission are embodied in our Ministry of Reconciliation as we confront and dismantle of the sin of racism in our Church and the communities where we serve.
Racism, however, continues to be an uncomfortable conversation for many of our members and leaders in our congregations. Our language, the words that we choose and use to talk about race, can be confusing and triggering for our feelings of anger, shame, and guilt. Recently, in our first online seminary course on Healthy Boundaries and Anti-Racism, students described these feelings as tantamount to their desire to avoid conversations about race. The conversation, however, is unavoidable as evidenced in clarion call for racial justice at our borders and within them. Disparate treatment of non-white, namely black and brown men, women and children in our judicial system can no longer be dismissed as an anomaly. Instead it is headline news on national and social media outlets. It is our contention in Reconciliation Ministry that equipping our congregations and leaders with the tools and language to help change the narrative about our identity as an anti-racist church. Our tools and educational resources are intended to move help participants through the discomfort of the tendency to avoid and to move beyond being non-racist toward a commitment to embrace the image of God in each other across race and identity.
Reconciliation Ministry offers the following resources to advance your journey of bearing witness to our shared humanity and to equip you with the language and skills for racial justice advocacy.
Preaching About Racism: A Guide for Faith Leaders. Carolyn B. Helsel. 2019.
Anxious to Talk About It: Helping White Christians Talk Faithfully about Racism. Carolyn B. Helsel. 2018
Trouble the Water: A Christian Resource for the Work of Racial Justice. Michael Ray-Matthew and Marie Clare P. Onwubuariri, editors. 2017
Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know About the People We Don’t Know. Malcolm Gladwell. 2019
One Bag of Tea, One Conversation, One Relationship. A structured conversation model for uncomfortable dialogue.
Anti-Racism Training. Information for hosting and scheduling.