Central District's Real Talk about Racism, Dec. 3, 2016. John Coleman photo.
Central District's Real Talk about Racism, Dec. 3, 2016. John Coleman photo.

Districts dig deeper into real talk about race

By John W. Coleman

Four districts will dive deeper into their exploration of racial understanding and race relations in January and February with upcoming dialogues that may lead to more. Clergy and laity from all districts are invited to attend.

The Southeast District will hold the first of a two-part dialogue titled “Becoming the Beloved Community” on Monday, Jan. 16, from 7 to 9 PM, hosted by Church of the Open Door (210 S. Broad Street, Kennett Square). A time of conversation will follow devotions by the Rev. Dawn Taylor-Storm, District Superintendent, on the national holiday that honors civil rights icon the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. If you wish to attend, please register asap.

“Today, more than ever, our churches need to be places where people can come together and find space for respectful dialogue with one another,” writes Taylor-Storm. “Our district will offer intentional opportunities throughout 2017 for clergy and laity to engage these vital conversations with one another…(and) to grow in relationship.”

The Rev. Lydia Munoz, host pastor who also heads the Urban Commission, will facilitate the dialogue. The resources offered there will be made available for use in local churches.The district plans to offer a follow-up dialogue at its Tools for Ministry event on April 29.

“We will take time to hear each other’s stories and learn from one another,” reads the invitation. “We will also discern ways that we can help our communities have vital conversations with one another and how to build bridges in our communities. These conversations are vital to our ongoing journey to become the beloved community that God intends for us.”

Central District's Real Talk about Racism, Dec. 3, 2016. John Coleman photo.

Central District’s Real Talk about Racism, Dec. 3, 2016. John Coleman photo.

The East District will hold an extended Conversations on Race Relations later that week, Jan. 20-21. From Friday night to Saturday afternoon clergy and laity will gather at Washington Crossing UMC (1895 Wrightstown Road, Washington Crossing). Other conference members from beyond the district are invited also.

The conversation theme is “Walk With: The African American Experience.”  The Rev. Tracy Bass, District Superintendent, considers this to be one of three required district events for appointed clergy to attend. The conversation will begin with dinner Friday at 6 PM, recess at 9 PM and resume with breakfast on Saturday morning at 8 AM, before adjourning at 3 PM.

The cost to register is $35 per person and includes Friday dinner, Saturday breakfast, and Saturday lunch. To register, send your name, mailing address, e-mail address, and the name of your church, with a check payable to “East District Superintendency Clergy Fund” to the East District office, 3470 Huntingdon Pike, Huntingdon Valley PA 19006, addressed to Clarita Krall, Eastern Pennsylvania Conference. The check memo line should read “Conversations on Race Relations.”

The Central District held a Real Talk about Racism guided dialogue on Saturday, Dec. 3, at First UMC Phoenixville. Former Philadelphia: Eastwick UMC pastor Helen Stafford Fleming, now a leadership development trainer, consultant and author, facilitated the teach and talk session. She works with churches and groups to plan for racial transition and reconciliation in urban areas, drawing on her recent experience as a Washington DC pastor in a racially changing, gentrified urban community.

The Rev. Anita Adams Powell, District Superintendent, welcomes about 25 diverse attendees from various churches who learned about basic racial concepts, challenges and scenarios from different viewpoints, but also engaged in deeper discussions about transparency, racism as sin and other topics.

The district, which like the East District, first dove into early discussions about race in 2015, will hold a follow-up dialogue on Saturday, Feb. 4, hosted by Tindley Temple UMC (50 S Broad St, Philadelphia).

Meanwhile, the Southwest District began holding teach and talk guided discussions almost monthly in August 2016. Members will convene for their next Racial Justice Dialogue on Monday, Feb. 20, 6-8 PM, at Faith UMC Manheim (1290 Fruitville Pike, Lititz). Again, anyone may attend.

Led by an interracial team of four pastors—the Revs. Jason Perkowski, Andrea Brown, Derrick Gutierrez and Quentin Wallace—the discussions have been drawing dozens of clergy and laity from several churches who share experiences, questions and often profound insights. Gutierrez will lead the next conversation and will focus on some practical steps members and their churches can take, as some have been requesting. The growing ministry has an active Facebook page.