Film and Dialogue as beginning point for churches
In the past three years, more than 30 congregations in the Episcopal Diocese of Texas have started racial reconciliation/racial justice work. For most of these congregations, the documentary film Traces of the Trade, coupled with the facilitated dialogue led by Dain and Constance Perry, has been the first step in that important work. Dain Perry, who is in the film, and his wife Constance have screened and led dialogues more than 500 times across the country over the past 13 years.
The murder of George Floyd and the response across the country created a higher level of awareness and a desire from many churches to begin conversations that can lead to change. Good Shepherd in Austin had already started their journey on racial justice and asked EHF about opportunities for next steps. In July, EHF, the Perry’s, and Good Shepherd piloted a shared viewing experience of the film over Zoom with a separate evening a few days later for the facilitated dialogue, also over Zoom. The result was remarkably effective.
“Frankly, our experience with online screenings has been very positive, in fact a net plus,” said Dain Perry. “Nothing has been lost in terms of participation in the conversations, and for many it has been a family affair, including children.”
Since that summer pilot program, EHF has hosted the screening and dialogue with two additional congregations, and the Perry’s have continued to lead online dialogues around the country with other congregations with everyone participating from their living rooms. EHF and the Perry’s will continue to offer the online opportunity throughout 2021.
Scott Beachy, a volunteer lay leader at St. Luke’s on the Lake in Austin, was already familiar with the film and assisted in making the program available to his church in November.
“The response to the presentation of Traces of the Trade and the follow-up dialogue facilitated by the Perry’s was very positive as evident in the personal stories that participants shared,” Beachy said following the online screening with St. Luke’s.
“Traces of the Trade has been a springboard for us at Christ Church (Temple) and is providing good encouragement for deeper work. Prior to Traces of the Trade, we had small groups that were all doing a book study on Waking Up White. It provoked a lot of discussion, and we intentionally took a soft approach…encouraging people to express themselves and providing a safe space. It turns out, we had people with a variety of histories and experiences and the Traces of the Trade experience provided the place for dialogue with everyone together.”
– The Rev. Becky Sparks, Deacon – Christ Church, Temple
For Christ Church in Temple, this journey is leading them to next explore the Sacred Ground curriculum, a part of the Becoming Beloved Community movement from The Episcopal Church. Members of St. Francis Episcopal in Temple will also be participating.
“We are continuing this racial reconciliation work because of the emphasis from Bishop Curry, from EHF, from Traces of the Trade, and now Sacred Ground,” Sparks said. “I think you can expect more good news from Temple – maybe it won’t be earthshaking, but definitely deeper relationship building in Central Texas.”
These three congregations all have next steps in place and are continuing their learning journey.
“The Traces of the Trade event offered an insightful and non-threatening beginning for our congregation on a journey towards racial reconciliation,” Beachy said about St. Luke’s plans. “Our next step is a book study of Waking up White scheduled to begin next month and led by our Rector.”