This Sunday, August 9, 2015, is the first anniversary of Mike Brown’s death. On this day the congregation I pastor (Fort Myers Congregational United Church of Christ) will join with hundreds and perhaps thousands of other congregations in the United Church of Christ by including prayers for racial justice as a part of services of worship. This shared emphasis is the direct result of a group of faith leaders who have met regularly by conference call under the leadership of Geoffrey Black, the denomination’s recently retired General Minister and President.
Our worship experience will utilize some of the many materials created by Worship Ways, including
- centering thoughts as folks arrive and prepare for worship written by Sharon R. Fennema, Assistant Professor of Christian Worship and Director of Worship Life, Pacific School of Religion;
- call to worship written by John C. Dorhauer, General Minister & President of the UCC; and
- prayer of confession written by Julius Jefferson, Senior Pastor of Heritage UCC in Baltimore, MD.
We will also include prayers for racial justice in the pastoral prayer. Additionally, I will make some mention in both the announcements that precede worship and the sermon.
The United Church of Christ is, like Mainline Protestantism more generally, a white church. Currently, 89% of the members of the UCC are white (see my recent post “Mainline: Lacking Racial Diversity“) yet the denomination strives to be and become a multiracial and multicultural church.
In seeking to address issues of racial justice local congregations and individuals within them must begin by being honest about who they are (including, when appropriate, their own whiteness). Once such is understood, we must move from awareness to action.
- Is your congregation talking about racial justice? If so, share some of the ways this is happening or has happened recently.
- Is your congregation actively involved in making a difference about racial justice? If so, share some of the ways this is happening now or some of the plans for how it will happen in the future.
For further reading/viewing:
- Get Home Safely: 10 Rules of Survival. This powerful two minute long video was created by David Miller and shared in partnership with CTS, WFYI, Trinity UCC (Chicago), and SALT.
- An Open Letter to White Men in America. This straightforward essay was written last month by the new General Minister and President of the UCC, John C. Dorhauer.
- Racism: A Mainline Reality. This is my recent recap of Bradley Wright’s research that found Mainline Protestants displayed the highest rates of implicit racial bias.