By Eric Moen, EHF Congregational Engagement Officer
The images. The words. The violence.
The turmoil and sadness of the events in Charlottesville, Virginia this month reminds the church and its institutions that we have a calling to bring healing and kinship to all people.
Healing and restoring people, institutions and systems to racial reconciliation is a primary concern for EHF’s congregational engagement team, the Episcopal Diocese of Texas and the Episcopal Church. It’s not just Charlottesville. We’re all too familiar with daily occurrences of racism in our communities.
EHF is uniquely positioned alongside the Diocese of Texas to partner with congregations to build bridges of health and wholeness into communities. Recognizing our Gospel call to seek and serve Christ in all persons, together we will listen, advise, and work to build healthy communities. We invite you to walk with us and our communities on this journey.
Racism and Health
Racial discrimination and systemic racism have profound effects on the health and well-being not only of minority populations, but of our broader communities. Racism can surface in individuals or systems, and often operates in ways people don’t consciously recognize. The consequences include lack of basic necessities and social exclusion, which affects health through both physiological and psychological ways.
For example, children who grow up in environments marked by racial strife have life-long health impacts related to heart disease and other chronic conditions. By engaging a process of racial reconciliation, we can begin to address this inequity in both direct and indirect ways.
Moving Forward Through Partnerships
EHF has worked through a discernment process with our congregations, EHF’s Kitchen Cabinet group of lay and clergy advisors, the Diocese of Texas, and the National Episcopal Church. We’re moving forward on a program of work that aims to educate congregations and communities on issues of racism, take action that will undo processes of systemic racism, and build community solidarity to advance the well-being and health of all.
We believe this work to be transformational on several levels: it addresses a root cause of poor health; it can fundamentally reshape processes of inclusion and opportunity in a community; and it opens doors of action on the hidden ways we operate as a society that reinforce health inequities.
The Kitchen Cabinet Working Group on Racial Reconciliation and Health is especially interested in ensuring that lay and clergy leaders of African American and Latino churches are engaged in this work. The group’s action is focused on helping communities deal with trauma related to racism, as well as going beyond a focus on individuals to creating an environment of restoration and wholeness for communities, structures, and systems.
EHF has also established a partnership with The Episcopal Church (TEC) and Becoming Beloved Community, a national program focused on racial reconciliation and developing a long-term strategy centered on racial injustice. The ambition of TEC’s Becoming Beloved Community is aligned with the work of EHF’s Congregational Engagement team.
TEC is interested in partnering with EHF to establish Texas as an innovation hub for advancing racial reconciliation and to hold it as a national model. To that end, EHF plans not only to partner on implementation of work, but to evaluate its impact. This support will lead to the replication of the model nationally and within our region.
Together, the partnership will develop new training sessions for communities in the diocese that create a “big tent” approach and allow congregations and communities to enter the conversation at their own level.
For instance, some communities may benefit from an introduction to the history of race and racism, while others are more focused on connections between race and health. Others communities are already prepared for training to help them move into action. We have identified several programs and are currently scheduling training sessions for those programs.
The Power of Truth Telling
Sharing our personal stories is how we move past barriers we may not even fully recognize. Our hope is that creating opportunities for courageous truth telling between races and ethnicities with Becoming Beloved Community will extend beyond congregations and into the community.
In September, Constance and Dain Perry will return to Texas to share their documentary film Traces of the Trade with congregations in East Texas. They’ll lead thoughtful conversations centered on themes of story sharing. To learn more, click here to listen to a recent podcast series with Dain and Constance.
The church is called to work outside its walls to walk alongside everyone, not just its members. Together, we value participation of all groups and honor all human dignity. As members of God’s family seeking kinship, may we encounter the sacred in every person, striving for justice and peace in the world.
If your congregation is interested in learning more about the history of racism, structural racism or have an interest in developing dialogues on racism in your community, please contact us.
Let’s all walk together.