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St. Mark’s, Columbus, rector, the Rev. Dr. Paul St. Germain, was thinking that St. Mark’s, too, needed to be involved in racial justice and reconciliation work, and asked parishioner Nadya Richardson to spearhead the effort. St. Philip’s rector, the Rev. Charles Wilson, reached out to St. Mark’s to join the group, which now also includes St. John’s, Worthington, and the First Unitarian Universalist Church, represented by the Rev. Kathleen Fowler.
Sacred Conversations for Racial Justice has an organic approach to its monthly meetings, using a shared leadership model and a discussion topic planned for each meeting. Conversations often flow outside the specific topic and are encouraged. Venues are rotated to experience each other more fully. Past meetings have screened both the documentary 13th and the film, I Am Not Your Negro.
The group’s most recent gathering in August attracted 41 attendees for a presentation by Professor Joan Ferrante from Northern Kentucky University. According to Dr. Ferrante, the expected outcome of her documentary Mourning the Creation of Racial Categories is to “create art and language that will move audiences to mourn, then to change people’s assumptions about who we are. We believe changing assumptions is the first step toward transforming the way we perceive race and go about interacting with different race-labeled peoples. This transformation prepares us to work through the real problems that are the legacy of racial categories.”
The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. created a vision of the Beloved Community, as one not without conflict, but where conflicts end with reconciliation of adversaries cooperating together in a spirit of friendship and goodwill. How has the Sacred Conversations group grown toward this vision? Members have said that stories too painful to tell at first are now shared comfortably because of the deep relationships that have taken root. Another member shared that by looking deeper into ingrained or learned, but unaware, categorizing of other people allows them to combat biases. Other comments include that this group, while tackling difficult topics, is a supportive place where we come together in mutual respect to share, learn and grow. By growing together in community, we receive the strength and courage needed to “go in peace to love and serve the Lord.”
Submitted by Nadya Richardson, Jim Keyes and Dot Yeager, parishioners of St. Mark’s, Columbus.