Monday, May 18, 2009

Anti-Racism Training as Spiritual Development

JoKatherine Holliman Page and Lelanda Lee at the close of the Anti-Racism Training on May 16, 2009, wearing their foundational hat marked with "Beloved Child of God" and "Member of the Body of Christ" on top of which they placed their roles hat marked with their roles such as "mother, wife, trainer, daughter, sister, volunteer, etc."

My training partner, JoKatherine Holliman Page, MSW, LCSW, and I just completed a two-day anti-racism training for the Diocese of Colorado of The Episcopal Church this past weekend. Whew! What an intense and focused 14-hours spent together with a group of church lay leaders, clergy and persons in the Holy Orders process. It took me a full day and a half to chill and recover from the physical, emotional and sprititual energy expended in getting ready for and conducting the training.

We were pleased to include two members of the Standing Committee, a member of the General Convention deputation, and a Commission on Ministry member among the participants, as well as two members from the Sudanese Community Church.

JoKatherine and I have structured the training so that anti-racism is the entry point and the goal is the development in the participants of cultural competency and the willingness, vulnerability and conversation skills to engage in deep dialogue about tough subjects. We utilize videos, group exercises, a dramatic reading, theological reflection, photographs, news articles, prayers and PowerPoint presentations to develop the subject. 

In a church-based anti-racism training as opposed to a secular anti-racism training, we believe that it is imperative to incorporate messages from Scripture and church tradition to illustrate how we are called as Members of the Body of Christ to live lives that are alert to racism and other “isms” to which we fall prey. The House of Bishops of The Episcopal Church has twice issued Pastoral Letters, in March 1994 and in March 2006, stating that racism is a sin and that we as a church and as individuals must repent of the sin of racism. 

As trainers, we know that we have touched the hearts of the participants when we receive E-mails, after the first day of training, of an individual’s reflections and hunger for guidance on next steps, as well as when participants on the second morning name their moods as “pensive.” Our design and delivery of the training very much puts it into the realm of a spiritual development workshop rather than into the category of a diversity training workshop. 

JoKatherine and I view our anti-racism work as one of the ways in which we support the mission of the Church, as stated in the Catechism of the Book of Common Prayer, which is to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ. 

We would welcome the opportunity to provide our anti-racism training in other churches and dioceses. You have only to invite us!


Deborah Sampson said...

I so wanted to come last weekend. I hope you do it again soon!


It is our hope that we will be able to offer a Fall and Spring training annually in Denver Metro and at least a couple of trainings in the Western Slope and Sangre de Cristo region, too. Regrettably, everyone's calendar is very full, and funds are very limited. However, JoKatherine and I are committed to doing this work.