Paradigm Shift

Blog Post by
Rev. Dr. Craig M. Howard
Presbytery Leader
choward@glpby.org


I can’t wait to hear Jennifer Harvey at our next presbytery gathering! I am looking forward to participating in worship and her workshop on February 6th at St. Mark. Jennifer is the author of the book, Dear White Christians. The presbytery will be reading the book throughout the year. Several of you are already into it! Second Presbyterian even had a class on the book (Go Second! Go Second!). Jennifer is challenging the church to shift from a paradigm of reconciliation to a paradigm of repair.

This shift is a challenge for me as well. As I read her book, I felt a shift in my own thinking and expectations. And it troubles me.

My way of understanding anti-racism has been shaped and formed in me since childhood. From kindergarten to fourth grade, I attended all black schools. From fifth grade through college, I only knew white majority integrated schools. My first day in a white school was my first school fight. I was raised to believe that if we can learn, work and live together in the same neighborhoods, and even worship in the same churches, then we can remove the scourge of racism from our society. This model of integration and reconciliation has been my underlying way of thinking.

What Jennifer helps me to see is that racism creates scars and wounds in people of color. These wounds are soothed and healed by other people of color living together in the same community and worshiping in with one another in the same church. This is why 11:00 remains the most segregated hour. Not because Blacks and Whites can’t worship together, but perhaps because Black people choose to worship where they find dignity, agency, and strength.

I still believe that integrated worship is still a sign of God’s power and a strong witness in our racialized society. I do not want the white congregations in our presbytery to give up on attracting Black people to worship. But now I value churches of color that are separated and able to express their culture in worship without justification or judgement. I get it.

If Jennifer Harvey can help change my thinking (being the old dog that I am!), I believe she can help the presbytery take steps toward racial healing and repair.

Rev. Craig M. Howard

 

9 Responses to “Paradigm Shift”

    • Carleton Stock, HR on

      Dear White Christians is indeed an insightful and troubling read! Because of the unlevel playing field in race relations (the reality of white privilege and supremacy), healing and reconciliation will only happen when reparations are made.

      Reply
  1. Susan Andrews on

    Love this reflection, Craig. I totally understand why black congregations want to be “segregated” for freedom, dignity, and strength. I think white congregations need to have people of color when possible in order to force change and recognition of white privilege. Besides the energy and joy and freedom in black worship can help the frozen chosen melt!

    Reply
  2. Barbara G Willock on

    Great insights, as always, Craig. After working with the Sacred Conversations on Race several years ago I was left with deep, troubling questions that the conversations did not address. I have finished Harvey’s book [and am taking part in the 4-week series at Second] and find that it is the first thing I’ve read that begins to address my questions and offers me a positive response to my family’s 275+ year participation in white supremacy. I, too, look forward to the discussions at the February presbytery meeting.

    Reply
  3. James Willock on

    Thank you, Craig. In our current context of declining membership and numbers of congregations in Giddings-Lovejoy and across the PC(USA), I believe the vitality of worship in black denominations and congregations today is a testimony showing that God makes a way for God’s faithful people through long years of hardship and oppression. Their witness is a gift and example to the larger church.

    Reply
  4. Joan Marshall on

    I too am stunned to recognize that we (white majority) have been doing it all wrong! The relationships we attempt to build are based on a false premise. It goes beyond “getting along”. We need to find the courage to really invest in the community for which we hope and long.

    Reply

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