Difficult Conversations

Recently I was asked to be a co-facilitator for a Synod’s Come to the Table workshop on anti-racism after another person had to drop out. As part of the workshop preparation, our team is being coached by Crossroads Anti-Racism Organization facilitator, Jessica Vazquez Torres. She has helped us focus and set objectives so that we can lead a group through complicated conversations about racism in our communities. We are competent and seasoned workshop leaders however I have GREATLY appreciated her work with us.  This is an overwhelming topic and she has guided us to where it feels manageable and  transformative.

Racism conversations are difficult. Difficult on many levels. We don’t know where to start. We are fearful of saying the wrong thing or being scolded for our inaction or apathy. We don’t know what to do; how to fix the problem. The thought of the conversation produces anxiety that there might be backlash from our community, family or congregation. These can be transforming conversations and there are consequences, positive and negative, to transformation.

Racism conversations may cause us discomfort and anxiety. That is good.

We are reminded in Scripture and in The Belhar Confession,  our newest Confession, that Christ’s work of reconciliation is manifest in the church as the community of believers who have been reconciled with God and one another. This reconciliation, this unity is both a gift and an obligation for the Church of Jesus Christ. (Confession of Belhar 10.3; Ephesians 2:13 -20 and 4: 11 -16)

Obligation. Responsibility. Commitment.  We are obligated as people of faith, as the community of believers in Jesus Christ, to do all that we can to be reconciled with God and one another. This includes delving into those difficult and painful conversations concerning racism.

In our world today this is essential, urgent and necessary.

The Presbyteries of Newton and Elizabeth, with a grant from the Synod of the Northeast, are working together to sponsor an Anti-racism workshop on September 30 at Presbyterian Church of Madison. Jessica Vazquez Torrez will be one of the facilitators.

The workshop is a Presbytery gathering and is not mandatory that presbytery members attend. YET I would like to believe that as community of Jesus Christ there is a sense of obligation to participate and to open ourselves to being transformed for the sake of the Gospel.