[Episcopal News Service] The Episcopal Church in Minnesota’s racial justice and healing commission is hosting a series of anti-racism education events Sept. 28–Oct. 1 at St. John the Evangelist Episcopal Church in St. Paul.
The events will present a “unique approach to the lifelong work of racial justice and healing.” During the first event on Sept. 28 at 7 p.m. Central, Catherine Meeks, executive director of the Absalom Jones Episcopal Center for Racial Healing, will discuss the inspiration for her newest book, “The Night is Long but Light Comes in the Morning: Meditations for Racial Healing.” The lecture is free and open to the public.
“I think that every time anybody reads any book, has any conversation, asks any question, that looks at the status quo in a really analytical way, and pays attention to what they see — anything that challenges us … that’s a good thing,” Meeks, who serves as the commission’s guide and educator, told Episcopal News Service. “It’s not just about learning how to be in a room with folks that are different and say all the right things. It’s about knowing how to really care about who you’re in the room with.”
On Sunday, Oct. 1, the commission will conclude its four days of anti-racism education events with Meeks preaching during a morning worship service at St. John the Evangelist. The service will be livestreamed starting at 10 a.m. Central.
Coinciding with the event series, the commission will host its first anti-racism retreat, Sept. 29-30. It will include workshops focusing on liturgy, Minnesota history, advocacy and somatic awareness. Participants will earn an anti-racism training certificate upon completing the retreat.
“We don’t all have to engage in racial healing in the same way, and we don’t have to engage in justice ministries in the same way. But you are called to be a reconciler and healer in the world,” commission chair Heidi Kim told ENS. “What we’re trying to do is say, here’s some theological ways to think about that. Here’s some practical ways to think about that. And here are some practices for you as an individual in your body, to allow you to process all the feelings that come up and to not be frozen by them.”
The Rev. Devon Anderson, a member of both the commission and Executive Council, told ENS that the Twin Cities area has a history of both social progressivism and systemic racism that impacts people of color today, including housing segregation issues, academic achievement gaps and wage gaps.
“We address these issues by building community, listening and looking at racism as a lifetime of work,” she said.
But while systemic racism remains in the Twin Cities area, the local fight for social justice also persists.
“Episcopalians often tend to think of themselves as the people who will ‘get things done now that we are here,’ and that does, in fact, overlook and often obstruct the work that others have been doing for generations,” Kim said.
The Episcopal Church in Minnesota received an emergency Becoming Beloved Community grant from Executive Council following the 2020 murder of George Floyd, a Black man, by a white police officer in 2020. Video footage of Floyd’s murder went viral on the internet and incited anti-racism protests worldwide.
Minnesota Bishop Craig Loya, who was consecrated 12 days after Floyd’s death, convened a group to discuss how the diocese might respond to the murder and how to become involved with the longstanding social justice movement in the Twin Cities area. After engaging in several months of dialogue via Zoom, the discernment group determined the diocese’s need for a racial justice and healing commission.
This week’s events are a culmination of the diocese’s work.
Anderson, Kim and Meeks all said the retreat will be unique from other racial justice programs because it’ll take a “holistic” approach and focus on healing.
“I think that every person on the planet has been impacted by racism, and I also think that every person on the planet has the responsibility to try to figure out how to be more well, and how to leave the planet better than they found it,” Meeks said. “If you carry that hate or fear around with you, it’s like poison. It poisons your own ability to have a good life.”
-Shireen Korkzan is a reporter and assistant editor for Episcopal News Service. She can be reached at email@example.com.