This past Sunday the 16th of December a Race and Reconciliation Sunday School Class wrapped up at Church of the Apostles, Columbia, South Carolina. The class was nearly one year in the making. The brainchild of a lay congregant, Charissa Ketcherside who could not view the events of Charlottesville without finding a way to take action. The Sunday School, however, posed unique challenges. How do you teach about Multiethnic ministry and reconciliation when the church is nearly 100% white? Where do you begin to address the issues of race and reconciliation when you are unsure how aware your audience is of the complexities of the topic? What resource could possibly address all the topics you wish to cover?
Fortunately, it was not long before Charissa was joined by others in the church who felt the same way. Besides myself and my wife, there was Ben and Leslie Roth. Ben is a professor of Social Work at the University of South Carolina and his wife is a social worker in a local school district. Professionally they have both focused their work on the Hispanic population and issues related to immigration.
Rather than a strict lecture format, where the leaders pontificated on the presented issue, most of the Sunday’s in this class would be a mix of presenting an idea or topic then breaking up into 3-4 smaller groups to discuss the topic. The Sunday School leaders in the course of meetings during most of the spring and summer chose a three-pronged approach as it regarded the material for the class.
The first element was to encourage members to Read White Awake by Daniel Hill. An InterVarsity Press publication that aims at helping white people come to terms with their white identity. Though the class never engaged in this book directly it was the backdrop on which everything else was framed.
Secondly, the group utilized material from Be the Bridge. Founded by Latasha Morrison, Be the Bridge ministry works to inspire, equip and build up the local church in the area of racial reconciliation and social justice. The organization has developed a curriculum for churches to use in a group setting to encourage conversation. In particular, the ministry developed what they entitled Whiteness 101. A five-lesson primer aimed at helping white people have a better understanding of the issues. The topics included: White Fragility, White Privilege, White Supremacy, and White Identity.
Finally, there were four Biblical passages that laid the foundation for understanding racial reconciliation and multiethnic ministry. The first study was an examination of Genesis 1 and Revelation 7 under the topic, “God’s planned diversity.” The second lesson was the story of the Samaritan woman in John 4. The topic for discussion, incarnational nature of Racial Reconciliation. Acts 6 discussed the question of power in regards to majority/minority cultures. Finally ending with 1 Corinthians 12:22-26 as an overview of the course.
|Sept 30th||Introduction, Definition and a look forward –|
|October 7||Whiteness 101 Developing a White Identity|
|October 14||What is Biblical Diversity? Genesis 1 and Revelation 7|
|October 21||Whiteness 101 Acknowledging White Privilege|
|Oct 27||Community Activity Movie Night The Hate You Give|
|Oct 28||Stepping into Minority Space: John 4|
|Nov. 4||Whiteness 101 Overcoming White Fragility|
|Nov 11||Sharing Power in the Early Church Acts 6|
|Nov 18||Whiteness 101 Recognizing White Supremacy|
|Dec 2||Putting it all together 1 Corinthians 12:22-26|
|Dec 9||Last Class. Where do we go from here?|
In wrapping up the Sunday School this past Sunday we spent time in prayer. We prayed Church of the Apostle’s growing relationship with a local African-American Baptist church, St. John’s Baptist. We prayed that God would strengthen the relationship between the two bodies and become a source of profound friendship. Our Sunday School also prayed that our Church would grow in its commitment to racial reconciliation and awareness of the problems in our community as it concerns race and Social Justice.
The question on everyone’s mind is what is next. What are the practical steps forward for our Sunday School and our church? There are a dozen or so credible steps forward ranging from dinner parties with our sister church to outreach to local diverse communities. All of them are good ideas, the question is which of those ideas is the one God would have us engage. We as leaders of the Sunday School know we will have failed if it ends here. It must go on and it must evolve from theoretical and theological to practical and meaningful engagement in our local communities of color. But this Sunday School proved to be a necessary and energetically embraced the first step.