You're Invited! Racial Justice & Healing Summit
The ECMN Racial Justice and Healing Commission invites you to a series of events open to any member of the Episcopal community in Minnesota this September. We have what we believe to be an exceptionally unique approach to the lifelong work of racial healing and justice and are anxious to share it with our siblings in Christ. We know that all God's people have been affected and shaped by racism, and are all in need of healing—wherever you live, however you grew up, whatever your racial identity. Please join us for one or all of the following events this fall at the ECMN Racial Justice and Healing Summit:
- The Night is Long But Light Comes in the Morning, an evening with Dr. Catherine Meeks
Thursday, September 28, 7:00 pm | St. John the Evangelist in St. Paul
Join Dr. Meeks as she discusses the inspiration for this critically acclaimed collection of meditations on racial healing and justice. Free. No registration necessary.
- Retreat with the Racial Justice & Healing Commission and Dr. Catherine Meeks
Friday, September 29, 2023 5:30 pm – Saturday, September 30, 5:30 pm | St. John the Evangelist
Are you longing for an opportunity to deeply explore your vocational call to engage racial justice healing? Are you seeking a like-minded community of seekers of Beloved Community? Join us for this inaugural retreat led by ECMN’s Racial Justice and Healing Commission. This retreat will also provide certification for canonically required anti-racism training. Register HERE.
- Racial Justice Holy Eucharist, Dr. Catherine Meeks, preacher
Sunday, October 1, 10:00 am | St. John the Evangelist
Free. No registration necessary
If you need a place to stay overnight, here are a few nearby hotels:
Courtyard by Marriott
150 Smith Ave N, St Paul, MN 55102 | (651) 204-4050
Hampton Inn & Suites
200 7th St W, St Paul, MN 55102 | (651) 224-7400
Holiday Inn Downtown St. Paul
175 7th St W, St Paul, MN 55102 | (651) 225-1515
HOW WE BEGAN
Twelve days before the Rt. Rev. Craig Loya was consecrated 10th bishop of Minnesota, George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police officers on the corner of 38th and Chicago. Violence against people of color at the hands of law enforcement—whether in the Twin Cities, or greater Minnesota, or around the country—was, devastatingly, nothing new. We knew some of the names: Trayvon Martin, Breonna Taylor, Eric Garner, Philando Castile . . . And many of us knew, on some level, that civic and economic systems throughout our state and country made these killings possible.
After George Floyd’s murder, well-meaning, liberal, white Episcopalians were saying things like “this can’t happen here,” or “this is so obvious, those cops will definitely be found guilty.” And yet the parents of so many other young people who had died at the hands of the police felt that the killing of their children was obviously unjust, too, and yet there were no charges, let alone convictions. As people of faith, congregations, and a diocese, we rushed to learn—to read books by James Baldwin and Ibram X. Kendi, take pilgrimage trips to George Floyd Square, lead Sacred Ground groups, engage the Intercultural Development Inventory, or post “Black Lives Matter” signs in front yards. Episcopalians throughout Minnesota were outraged and wanted to fix it and fix it NOW.
It was evident that the whole world was paying attention to Minnesotans expressing their anger and outrage at the death of a Black man who repeatedly cried that he couldn’t breathe. While initial responses here at home in our churches were intended as compassionate and faithful, it quickly began to feel that we were called collectively to something more, to something deeper, that it was not the time to get bigger and louder, but time to be humble and listen. Shortly after George Floyd’s death, Black pastors in the Twin Cities organized a clergy march, a peaceful protest that started at a church a few blocks away, a silent walk together into the square. Minnesota pastors and clergy of all faiths were invited, but the instructions to white clergy were clear: you are warmly welcomed to participate, and if you do, please locate yourself at the back of the march behind Black clergy. Please do not yell or shout or wave signs. This solemn march is being led and voiced by Black clergy. Similarly, laminated signs began appearing in and around George Floyd Square, instructing people in how to act in that place—not as though at tourist attraction, not as an opportunity for a selfie or social media fodder, but as one at a vigil, as reverent visitors in sacred space. Clearly this was not the time to rush in and try to tell local leaders who had engaged in racial justice work in the Twin Cities for decades what to do. It was time to listen, pay attention, do the deeper work, time to transform hearts and minds—starting with our own.
Seeing the need in our community and diocese, the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church made a one-time, no-strings-attached emergency grant to the Episcopal Church in Minnesota, encouraging the diocese to respond generously to the immediate needs of the community and to begin the long-term process of deep and transformative change. Bishop Loya convened a discernment group to engage in conversation about how our diocesan household might respond and move forward given the events happening right here in our home. The discernment group met for several months, talking about liturgy, advocacy, art, community connection, prayer, and everything else that the gifted members of the group brought into our Zoom meetings. One emerging theme was the need for a group of committed Minnesota Episcopalians who would steward this work with and for everyone in the diocese, and who could dig deeply into the longings of all our hearts for racial healing and justice-making that would be meaningful, relevant, accountable, and sustainable.
And so, the ECMN Racial Justice and Healing Commission (RJHC) was born. In conversation with Bishop Loya, Heidi Kim agreed to serve as the group’s convener, and an application process for commission membership identified 12 Episcopalians from diverse locations in Minnesota whose hearts were calling them into this work. Shortly thereafter, the group received a Becoming Beloved Community grant from the Episcopal Church to support the work ahead of it. The RJHC also contracted with Dr. Catherine Meeks, Executive Director of the Absalom Jones Center for Racial Healing in Atlanta, to serve as the group’s guide and educator.
The ECMN Racial Justice and Healing Commission began its work together in early 2022, meeting monthly by Zoom to do the initial, and most important, work of building relationships across our many differences. In November 2022 the commission came together for an overnight retreat at the Inn at Shattuck-St. Mary’s. There the group did significant work, with coaching and framing by Dr. Catherine Meeks. Part of what the group discerned was what it didn’t want: a “one-and-done” or “check-the-box” anti-racism training that people would tolerate and then never want to do again, or that would make anyone believe that they were “finished.” As Dr. Meeks taught us, the work of racial healing is the hard work of self-interrogation, taking seriously Jesus’ question, ‘Do you want to be healed?’ In her words, “The work requires a willingness to commit to the process of interrogating ourselves.” It’s faith formation work that takes exactly one lifetime to accomplish. “This work,” she explains, “can lead to new ways of seeing what we thought we already knew. Such examination of our lives is crucial if we have any interest in being well . . . In order to move forward, we must resolve the inner conflict of wanting to be healed but hoping to remain the same.”
Taking this revelation to heart, the team began to envision an in-person retreat experience that could focus on four interwoven areas that propel us into the work of self-interrogation and racial healing and justice-making: liturgy, history, advocacy, and somatic/body awareness. The team believed that if it could bring these four focus areas to bear and stay grounded in their inter-connectedness, it might have some opportunities for engaging racial healing in a way that is fully immersed in our Episcopal theology and charism.
Our liturgy is at the heart of Episcopal identity. One need not be a theologian or biblical scholar to experience the beauty and mystery of our common worship of the Divine. It binds us together, professes our faith, teaches and instructs, heals, challenges, and reminds us who we are and Whose we are. Through praise and thanksgiving, confession and breaking bread we acknowledge that we need each other to live most fully and responsibly into our Baptismal promises.
Minnesota/Mni Sota has a complex and compelling history of colonialism and institutional racism; included in that history is the complicated legacy of the role of the Episcopal Church. Bishop Whipple is a hero to many, given his role advocating for the lives of Dakota men sentenced to death—the Dakota 38 + 2. Yet, like all of us, Bishop Whipple was a hard and tangled mix of saint and sinner. None of us are pure or consistent when it comes to racial justice. Minnesota is also home to the Mapping Prejudice project that traces the ongoing existence of racial covenants in many of our communities. The wounds of racism are ever-present and call us to respond with both compassion and action. By understanding the complex history of our context, we may begin to unravel our own complex stories of both harm and reconciliation.
What does one do when one learns about the breaches that need repairing? For many well-intentioned Episcopalians, there is a strong desire to go out and do something to fix things. But what is required to be an effective advocate? Dr. Meeks has written, “The first step is to make sure that as much energy as possible is dedicated to personal awakening and healing.” What do we need to learn? What work do we need to do on our own, and what needs to be done in deep relationship with others? And how is all this work part of our ongoing journey of discipleship? As our Presiding Bishop tells us: advocacy is most effective, and enduring, when based on love and spiritual life rather than on rage, revenge, or ego.
Racism and white supremacy are damaging to all of us, and we carry those wounds in our minds, hearts, and bodies. Yet we as Episcopalians often believe that we can read away the pain of racism, or attend a lecture or a prayer service, and be done. We carry the memories of trauma and harm in our bodies, and we cannot fully engage with the entirety of the Body of Christ until we engage our own bodies’ longing and need for healing and restoration.
The Racial Justice and Healing Team, along with the bishop and diocesan staff, hope that these late-September offerings serve to inspire, inform, enlarge, challenge and bless us. The offerings are borne out of the team’s relationships with each other, as our coming together—white Episcopalians and Episcopalians of color, rural and urban, clergy and lay, old and young, rich and poor—provided many opportunities for learning about each other and ourselves and growing our awareness and understanding. The offerings are open to people of color and white people, as it is the team’s goal to provide a hospitable, warm environment for listening, sharing, praying, and learning. Whether you’ve already entwined your spiritual practice with the work of racial healing or you are just starting out—we welcome you.
Dr. Meeks’ most recent book is “The Night is Long but Light Comes in the Morning: Meditations for Racial Healing” and is available (on-line or in person) at the Cathedral Book Store.