A MESSAGE FROM REV. J.C. AUSTIN: The Work Continues
On Tuesday evening, we concluded the initial offering of our 21-Day Racial Justice Immersion Project with a Zoom gathering of participants to reflect on what they had experienced, and to consider possible next steps in their own ministry of antiracism and in the ministry of the congregation as a whole.
There were several important themes that ran through that conversation that I want to hold up, especially for those who were unable to attend the gathering. First, there was a new appreciation for how much most of us have not known or understood about the history and ongoing reality of systemic racism, both in the church and in society. The challenge with this appreciation, then, is not to be overwhelmed by that, but instead to continue with the “habit” of doing something to address systemic racism everyday (which is the rationale for the 21 days of the project, the length of time it takes to develop a new habit in human behavior).
A second theme was the desire to have further opportunities to explore and discuss these issues together from a faith perspective, as it is helpful to hear how other people are thinking about and wrestling with these issues.
With those two themes in mind, I want to highlight three quick aspects of our congregational antiracism ministry as we move forward.
First, the 21-Day Racial Justice Immersion Project will remain available for individuals to use, either beginning it for the first time or having completed the initial 21 days but desiring to use it to continue practicing the habit of antiracism in their own lives (available on our website at fpc-bethlehem.org/racialjustice).
Second, we will be experimenting with some different ways of providing community for those who want to pursue this ministry in community with others, not simply as an individual. This may be periodic discussion gatherings or even short-term small groups, depending on interest, so let us know what would be most helpful to you. (Contact us if interested))
Finally, the Session has created a Racial Justice Task Force that is already working on the question of what our ministry in this crucial area of discipleship and Christian ethics might look like in the coming months and beyond, and you will be hearing more about that shortly.
For now, I want to express my gratitude to the Session and to you, the entire congregation, for the strong and vigorous response to the ministry of racial justice so far. As I have said before, this work is not simply a necessary dimension of Christian discipleship, given the ministry of Christ himself against exclusion and injustice and our call to follow him; it is also a way in which we embody the core values we specifically have as the First Presbyterian Church of Bethlehem: to be Christ-centered, welcoming to all, and living out an inquiring and active faith.
It is both exciting and moving to see the ways in which we have embraced that ministry so far, and I look forward to seeing where it takes us next.
Grace and Peace,