For two years, EHF has provided congregations with the opportunity to screen the documentary film Traces of the Trade and participate in the facilitated dialogue led by Constance and Dain Perry. Dain is featured prominently in the film and for the past 12 years, the Perry’s have made these conversations their life work.
In the Fall of 2018, EHF sponsored five screenings and dialogues across Texas, including at St. Andrew’s in Bryan and St. Julian of Norwich in Round Rock. Both faith communities have utilized this opportunity to build greater understanding of racism in society and how they can be more responsive and connected to their neighbors.
St. Andrew’s has been addressing this work for almost two years. EHF shared their story a year ago that explained how multiple congregations came together for bible study with the intention to build relationships to bridge racial lines. A year later, the effort has been named Brazos Valley Common Good and the four churches are more organized with broader community connections and a faith-based leadership team.
Former curate, the Rev. Matt Stone credits the Traces of the Trade event as a pivotal gathering for story sharing and community building.
“The Traces of the Trade movie, dinner and discussion was a spark to bring our whole community together and explore the challenging topic of race.
Traces invites viewers to consider how race has shaped our history and our own story and the facilitators did a masterful job inviting people to share their experiences with race in a helpful way. At the end, everyone wanted to do something to address lingering racial inequalities in our community, which has given life to a new community organization focused on storytelling, friendships across difference and taking action for the common good of all people.
None of this would have happened without Traces of the Trade.”
The Rev. Matt Stone
St. Andrew’s, Bryan
In the past year, St. Julian of Norwich has been actively going door-to-door in their neighborhood to increase voter turn-out. As part of their “Sign-up and Take Charge” initiative last fall, the congregation partnered with Central Texas Interfaith and a team from the church set out into the neighborhood. Initially a little intimidated about going door to door, the Rev. Miles Brandon says that his eyes were opened in new ways.
“I had lots of assumptions about Williamson County, that it’s white, middle class and everyone works at Dell,” Rev. Brandon said. “And that’s not true. I would say that at least half of the homes of the doors we knock on as we literally walked out of the door the church and into the surrounding neighborhood were people from all over the world. It was not monochromatic.”
In addition to meeting and developing connections to neighbors, St. Julian’s has been developing a trusted relationship with their neighborhood mosque. With a deepening curiosity and drive around being better neighbors, they hosted a screening of Traces of the Trade and invited their Muslim brothers and sisters to participate. Shared experience, dialogue, and story sharing have a way of making friendships stronger.
On the heels of their Traces gathering, St. Julian followed up with a focused Sunday morning class on Racial Reconciliation as part of Rev. Brandon’s desire to fully engage in this work.
“Our desire to address Racial Reconciliation began with an honest and prayerful conversation around our God-given Vision Statement, which reads, in part, ‘Loving all Well,’ he said. “If we meant all, then we needed to move beyond the similar looking faces around the room and begin building relationships of substance and consider how welcoming we really are to those who look, live, love and believe differently than we do.
We also realized that to do this work well, we needed to begin with education and an honest look at ourselves. At this point, we began to look for resources beyond ourselves for wisdom and support. This led us first to Traces of the Trade and then One Human Race.
Additionally, after Traces of the Trade, we embarked on our own six-month exploration of race on Sunday mornings as our chief Christian Education offering for adults. This program called “Races, Reconciliations, and the Body of Christ” was led by our Theologian in Residence, Dr. Tony Baker, and used resources from the Presiding Bishop’s racial reconciliation curriculum.
This program was a combination of bible study, guest speakers, and dialogue. We are now working toward a Parish Pilgrimage through the south to lynching sights, plantations, the national lynching museum, and ending with a focus on Dr. King in Atlanta. The tentative dates for the trip are Spring Break 2020. We are inviting communities of color in the Episcopal Church and in our neighborhood to join us (the One Human Race team has already expressed interest in joining us).
With all of this said, we remain and work in progress with much to learn…just beginning with the diversity and difference that already exists at St. Julian’s. However, we believe that diversity, in itself, represents more fully the fullness, beauty and complexity of God, and the chance to experience more of that moves us.”
The Rev. Miles Brandon
St. Julian of Norwich, Round Rock
Both faith communities are finding their own authentic way of stepping more completely into the call to be one community, where people are known, cared for, and valued. These bridge builders are playing a significant role in developing a healthier community for all people — in the pews and on the corner.
How might your faith community deepen participation in your area?
In October of 2019, EHF will again sponsor a Traces of the Trade tour with Dain and Constance Perry. It is a trusted way to begin a conversation on race. If you would like to know more about how other congregations are addressing racial reconciliation and/or if you are interested in hosting a screening and dialogue for your church and community please contact EHF’s Eric Moen at Emoen@episcopalhealth.org or 832.807.2582.