Advent is a time of preparation. It’s a time for seeking the presence of God in our world and watching for the “renewal of all things” (Matthew 19:28). In Advent, we recognize that God became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14). God walked among us and went to the margins to become one with the oppressed, the vulnerable, and the persecuted.
In Advent, the incarnation inspires us to reflect on how we are called to be Christ’s hands and feet to one another, and work towards alleviating systems of injustice. This week, we feature a blog by J. Wu, who is a Life Together Intern within the Episcopal Diocese of Eastern MA serving at Church Of Our Saviour in Milton. J. attended a recent gathering by Courageous Conversations Toward Racial Justice, which is a monthly series of dialogue-centered programs designed to address racial healing and justice in our community. The leadership of Courageous Conversations has five clergy from four different churches! Read about J’s experience attending this gathering below.
Also, this month the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) put forth a statement: “Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love – A Pastoral Letter Against Racism.” They describe: “The entire body of bishops felt the need to address the topic of racism, once again, after witnessing the deterioration of the public discourse, and episodes of violence and animosity with racial and xenophobic overtones, that have re-emerged in American society in the last few years.”
Courageous Conversations: Dissolving Silence with Authenticity, Openness, and Awe
As I stepped into the Church of Christ, I could hear the crisp clattering of metal chairs
being unfolded. This was my first time helping to coordinate an event held by Courageous Conversations Towards Racial Justice. Caught in a grip of self-consciousness, my shoulders wanted to fold up like a stacked chair. Despite joining the Steering Committee, I could scarcely believe that I could have productive interactions around the topic of racial justice with people I barely knew.
Wrestling against my urge to sink into the wallpaper and blend out of sight, I stammered
some offers to help set up chairs for the event. As I did my job, my nervous glance darted from new face to new face, before tentatively perching on the rack of colorful bolts of cloth that were arranged up front and center in the middle of the chairs.
My stomach sank. Soon, I would be called to interact with people of different racial
backgrounds and age generations than my own. Picking out a seat, close to the front but not too close, I exhaled as a clear musical note rang across the air and announced the start of the Bystander Learning Event. My eyes widened.
Nothing prepared me for an innovative form of Bystander Learning, in which the form of theater became a conduit that focused discussions about systemic injustice. Even the tight grip of my nervous jaw gave way to awe and laughter. This event illuminated the tense multitudes of emotion, compelling volunteers to eagerly share their experiences of discomfort around privilege and disadvantage.
Soon, we all practiced techniques of Bystander Intervention with True Story Theater, a
trust made possible by sharing our personal stories pertaining to interactions of racism and privilege in our everyday lives. In an almost complete opposite of my initial reactions, I leaned into the experience rather than flinching away. By the end, I carried newfound clarity as to how I can be a more involved in implementing my justice-based values rather than freeze up as a passive bystander in situations of social inequality.
Since then, I can proudly assert that Courageous Conversations Towards Racial Justice
makes space for justice-oriented learning through monthly programming. More than ever in our current political anxiety, compounded by constant media reports of inhumane actions, I need a space like Courageous Conversations that welcomes all people to participate in understanding, interrupting, and ending systems of racial injustice.
Courageous Conversations Towards Racial Justice is nearing the third year of holding
monthly events. The next event is on Tuesday, December 11th, 6:30 PM, St. Michael’s Episcopal Church, 112 Randolph Ave, Milton. At this gathering, they will be watching a documentary by Tim Wise, which examines what it means to be white in a nation where privilege seeps into every institutional arrangement, from education to employment to the justice system. Click here to learn more about Courageous Conversations Toward Racial Justice.