Inspired by the call to celebrate our 300th Anniversary with a focus on mission, and wanting to deepen the Presbytery conversations on “Race, Bias and Privilege,” the NW Region invited Crossroads Anti-Racism Training to lead a day-long seminar called “Introduction to Systemic Racism.” Sixty people representing over a dozen congregations from across the Presbytery gathered at the Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill for learning, conversation, worship (and a delicious lunch). The program was supported by the Church Leadership Development Fund of the Great Ends Grants, and with donations from the Ambler, Norriton, Oxford, and Summit Presbyterian churches. Individuals also gave generously!
Crossroads is dedicated to helping people understand and combat racism in institutions – including the church. They offered a definition of racism that went beyond the common understanding of racism as a matter of personal prejudice or hostility. It is better defined, they suggested, as a combination of race prejudice combined with misuse of power by institutions and systems – and therefore needs to be tackled on both an institutional and personal level. An ethical/theological framework developed by Christian Ethicist Miguel de Torres guided our discussions.
Provocative questions, personal stories, videos and short lectures sparked energetic conversations between members of different congregations. We looked at the concept of a cultural “center” and “borderlands” (developed by philosopher Gloria Anzaldua) to explore how racism and other kinds of oppression play out in society. We considered ways in which the church is complicit, and how it might change.
Near the end of the day we thought about our own congregations and where they fit on an anti-racism spectrum. Nearly all agreed there was not enough time for this interesting exercise and we needed an opportunity to plan next steps. The Northwest Regional team will be exploring ways we can further our anti-racism work.
The Northwest Regional Leadership Team thanks the Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill, for graciously hosting, and all who attended and made the event a success. Thank you to the Presbytery for supporting churches. Stay tuned for follow-up programming!