“Joining the DHM’s Pro-Reconciling/Anti-Racism Team (PRAR) team has been eye-opening and I’ve learned a lot,” says Brenda Tyler, Disciples Home Missions (DHM) Ministry Associate who now serves as Co-Convener of the PRAR Team.
In 1998, DHM, then Division of Homeland Ministries, was one of seven entities of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) asked to inaugurate a process of ongoing discernment on racism within the life of their ministry and mission. In the process of meeting those goals, DHM’s PRAR team was formed in 2003. The team consists of several staff and board members, and continues to oversee a highly intentional, mandatory, six-year cycle of anti-racism education and audit for DHM’s full staff and board.
This spring, DHM’s PRAR team received a $2,695 grant from Reconciliation Ministry to help underwrite the costs of two 2019 programs: an August planning retreat, which has since been completed, and a training event in November.
In August, DHM’s PRAR team held their annual retreat to plan their upcoming year of training. The Reconciliation grant allowed deployed staff and board members on the team to attend in person and fully participate with the rest of the team. The group planned teambuilding activities for DHM staff, and met with Rev. Dr. Carolyn Helsel, assistant professor of homiletics at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary and dedicated anti-racism trainer, to plan their November training.
That next training will be based around Helsel’s book Anxious to Talk about It: Helping White Christians Talk Faithfully about Racism (available from Chalice Press), which all participants are asked to read in advance of the training. The Reconciliation grant also made it possible for DHM to purchase the book for all staff and board members, and to allow Helsel to lead the interactive training in person.
“Because this work is important for the whole Church,” Tyler explains, “This year we’ve invited staff from other general ministries to join us for the anti-racism training in November so we can share different perspectives and learn and grow together.”
In addition to coordinating these biannual trainings, DHM’s ARPR team plans shared readings accompanied by discussion, and educational field trips. In 2019, DHM added a social media adaptation of the 21-Day Racial Equity Habit Building Challenge program, with prompts to encourage personal reflection and interactive participation in the program.
Beyond these specific activities, the team hopes to serve as a model for other ministries across our Church.
“We are a microcosm of the wider Church at DHM,” Rev. Dr. Kate Epperly, Minister of Justice and Advocacy for Family and Children’s Ministries and Co-Convener of the PRAR Team, explains. “We’ve always been about hands-on mission. PRAR work is not abstract for us at all – it’s personal. Together we are creatively meeting the needs of our time through intersectional ministry and embracing diversity in creative ways.”
To support this and other Reconciliation Ministry Fund programs, you’re invited to give to the Reconciliation Special Offering, received in many congregations on Sept. 29 and Oct. 6.