“We build on foundations we did not lay.
We warm ourselves at fires we did not light.
We sit in the shade of trees we did not plant.
We drink from wells we did not dig.
We profit from persons we did not know.
We are ever bound in community."

Rev. Peter Raible (paraphrased from Deuteronomy 6:10-12)

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Race: The Power of an Illusion

In the past 5 months, through sermons, conversations, and more, First Universalist Church has begun the journey of becoming a congregation committed to racial justice principles and practices. There is energy and excitement about this work, the fact that we're doing it in a faith community, and that we understand it as a spiritual imperative.

One of the daily practices I engage in that helps me keep my own racial identity front and center in my life, is something I learned from Heather Hackman. I take a minute to breathe and to sit with the question, "Where is my race in my body?" So far, some of my answers have been, "In my skin," "In my hair," "In my mind, i.e., in my expectations about how I expect to be treated/how I expect people to respond to me/how I expect my family will be treated," and "In my voice/the way people listen to me." Obviously, some of this is wrapped up in being a male, being a minister, and being in a position of power, but a lot of it is about race, too. If you have a minute, try this exercise. Where is your race in your body?

Part of my spiritual practice now, as a racialized white person (meaning I'm taught not to think about my race), is to pay particular attention to my race.

This journey began last October, when I preached this sermon, called "The Power of an Illusion." Even though I'm far from an expect on race and racial justice, I felt called to begin this work, imperfect and blind though I may be. Since that sermon, we've had 4 conversations with members of the congregation about race and racial justice work, and the spiritual imperatives behind it. We've watched the movie, "Race: the Power of an Illusion" and have had conversations following the film. And a few weeks ago, Ruth MacKenzie, our Director of Worship Arts, preached this sermon, "Re-examine Everything," challenging us all to re-examine everything we think we know about race, and our own histories.  We're beginning to engage with a consultant who will do a training with our staff, Board members, and other key leaders in the congregation.

There's so much more to say about my own journey and our journey as a faith community...but that will have to be another post.


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