by Catherine Maresca
It’s Black History Month, and a good time to consider our efforts against racism in our atria and churches. With the murders of George Floyd in May of 2020, as well as other Black men and women, our attention was drawn to the question of what is our part, in the context of our own lives and work, to end racism in our midst. We read, we met, we discussed, and we may have made some changes to the materials and artwork on our shelves. As other concerns displaced this one, our attention waned, and our efforts slowed.
But racism continues, and anti-racist work is not finished. The church and other faith-based spaces do not get a pass from dealing with racism.
In the atrium, I am not talking about anti-racist discussions or materials to be added to the work. One of the hallmarks of CGS, especially for 3-6 year-old-children is its essentiality, and we remain faithful to that. Rather than add special materials, we consider “baking” inclusion into our materials with careful attention to our language, art, stories and prayers. For older children, true openness to conversations about racism and other differences invites them to tackle these difficult topics when they are ready. Studying Scriptures or lectionary selections that raise issues around the “isms” rather than avoid them will help them to understand how our faith can widen to match our understanding of God’s great love. We can also make sure that the beautiful language of Parousia – cosmic communion – is mirrored in the graphics and artwork of our materials.
I am also talking about developing a keen sensitivity to how our atria ignore the presence and contributions of non-white (as well as non-male and non-queer) members of our communities. As we begin to see a lack of inclusion of “others” we begin to study, confer with others, find better resources, make the changes we can, and demand the changes we need.
Besides a lack of inclusion we have fragments of racism in some of our church language, especially the tendency to collapse the powerful image of light with “white.” In the Black church light is celebrated as a sign of the presence of God. But the implications of “white” are far different, and imply persecution, segregation, prejudice or people to fear, depending on the context. We cannot continue to pretend this is not problematic just because it’s used in church. Phrases such as “devil’s food/angel food”, black sheep, or black magic should be avoided in a society where these words will be tinged with racism.
CCTheo is supporting this antiracist effort with
- Inclusive resources for prayer cards and art
- Suggestions for material changes such as the Color of the Sheep, or a Universal Plan of God
- Building the Beloved Community Conversations – held four times/year
- Building the Beloved Community Reflections – your stories regarding racism and anti-racist work shared by email.
Let’s create space for all of us to be heard and represented in our work, be willing to make materials that represent all people and families, and offer presentations in ways that reflect the cultures of all of our communities.