“Along the way I want to be the kind of person that God set free.” From this gathering song lyric through other centering, listening, and reflecting opportunities, rostered ministers of the Metro D.C. Synod used a day in Lent on March 20 to worship and to advance our synod’s discussion on racial equity and racial healing.
Acknowledging passions and blockages which can surface when expanding our racial awareness, music and reflection spaces set the foundation for later presentations and small group discussion.
“I think it is one of the tragedies of our nation, one of the shameful tragedies, that eleven o’clock on Sunday mornings is one of the most segregated hours, if not the most segregated hours, in Christian America,” said the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s April 18, 1960 interview on Meet the Press. 1 Vicar Tamika Jancewicz of Christ Lutheran Church in D.C. facilitated our reflections for part of the morning, pointing out King’s additional comment: “I might say that my church is not a segregating church. It’s segregated but not segregating. It would welcome white members.” Faced with the fact that the Pew Research Center in 2015 found that the two major branches of Lutheranism in the U.S. ranked among the least ethnically diverse of the 30 religious groups it studied 2 – in shorthand, the Lutheran church is the whitest denomination in the U.S. – we reflected on what Dr. King’s comments mean in 2018.
We viewed a video prepared by an ELCA seminarian who began with the question: Are we doing what we say we want to do? 3 “Do Black Churches Matter in the ELCA” is the result of Lenny Duncan’s efforts, 4 and filmed ideas and related experiences of theologians, pastors, and professors gave our participants much to discuss.
What are the racial and cultural dynamics of your particular congregation? Is it multicultural, diverse, bilingual, homogeneous? Has your church ever talked about changing this dynamic or celebrated its diversity? These were some of the questions Vicar Jancewicz invited us to explore.
The Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, ELCA Presiding Bishop, shared in Part II of the video this prayer.
Good and Gracious God,
You have created a world of amazing diversity,
and sometimes we get it, and many times we don’t.
You’ve also called the Church to be a witness to your love and graciousness and inclusivity,
and sometimes we get it, and sometimes we don’t.
So help us, Lord, be present now in our speaking and listening,
and may this project of Lenny’s in some ways move us along
to a church closer to your vision.
In Jesus’ name. Amen.
1 – Available on video, for example: https://youtu.be/1q881g1L_d8 .
2 – “The most and least racially diverse U.S. religious groups” by Michael Lipka (7/27/15) on pewresearch.org
3 – “Do Black Churches Matter in the ELCA?” by Lenny Duncan (7/17/17) on ELCA Racial Justice Blog
4 – “Do Black Churches Matter in the ELCA? Part I” (5/26/17) and “Do Black Churches Matter in the ELCA? Part II” (6/27/17) published by ANKOSfilms can be viewed on YouTube