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Final Report on “Holy Conversations on Race, Racism & Racial Justice” & Next Steps

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Final HC Report & Next Steps
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Preface

The intent of this report is to recap the outcomes of Epworth’s Holy Conversations process and progress made in the subsequent six months. This report was developed in May 2022, at roughly the same time as Pastor Kristin’s May 25th Pastoral Message on Racial Justice. We were struck by the alignment of suggestions in the report and the areas for community focus she discussed. We specifically commend the attached summary of action steps offered by the congregation, which both dovetail with the directions outlined in Pastor Kristin’s update and provide a framework for our further individual and collective action.


Background & Summary of Holy Conversations

In the fall of 2021, Epworth embarked on a seven-part series of deep reflection and sharing called “Holy Conversations on Race, Racism, and Racial Justice.” The intent of the holy conferencing process was to bring together every voice in the Epworth community, to listen deeply with love and compassion, to reflect on our learnings and lived experiences, and to begin to articulate what we believe is God’s call for ourselves and our church.


Over the series, 18 Epworth members offered presentations or led panel discussions, while at least 90 other persons–reflecting the diversity in age, gender and racial/ethnic background of the congregation–participated either in-person or through Zoom. Special attention was given to ensure the physical health and safety of participants amidst the Covid-19 pandemic. The use of pre-recorded video and video conferencing technology was deployed to enable accessibility to all who desired to participate, while the Design Team also received and responded to other feedback through an anonymous feedback form to ensure an emotional/ psychological safe space.


Ultimately, the congregation gathered for a day of discernment on November 14, 2021, and through small group conversations, responded broadly to the question “What is God saying to God’s people about racial equity and justice?” and specifically offered feedback on three areas:

  • A) What is important to include in a Racial Justice Mission Statement

  • B) Action steps to remedy racial injustice

  • C) Action steps related to Epworth’s culture

A Racial Justice Mission Statement was drafted by the Holy Conferencing Design Team based on feedback from the Holy Conversations, and went through a number of revisions, including input from the Church Council. The final version was ratified at the annual charge conference on December 7, 2021.


Also at the annual charge conference, a motion was ratified to create a Racial Justice Action Team… for the purposes of enabling the mission statement for racial justice and prioritizing action items and other outcomes from the culmination of the Holy Conversations on Race, Racism and Racial Justice process. The leadership for the Racial Justice Action Team will be nominated by the Nominations and Lay Leadership Committee.


During the final Holy Conversations meeting, there were 4 general areas identified for future action to remedy racial injustice:

  • A) Community building

  • B) Repair harm/Reparations

  • C) Ongoing education and dialogues within Epworth to increase racial awareness and discuss racial justice.

  • D) Specific areas of inequity, e.g. school to prison pipeline, voter suppression, zoning, disparities in education

There was also an overarching suggestion to do an internal DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) assessment within Epworth in order to address 3 general areas related to Epworth’s culture:

  • A) Outreach

  • B) Worship

  • C) Other Activities

The next step after Holy Conferencing was to convene the Racial Justice Action Team. Following the Holy Conference sessions, we went into the Christmas season. It was a challenging time due to the winter Omicron surge and having to close the church again to in-person activities. In the subsequent re-opening in February, many congregants have been overwhelmed by increased demands on their time and attention. And, we are all continuing to make sense of what we have been through for the past two years. Consequently, the Racial Justice Action Team has not yet been convened, but Michael Martin, Dianne Rush Woods and Pastor Kristin will be convening those who want to proceed with focused action for racial justice after worship on July 10, 2022 (to be confirmed). We expect they will utilize this material from the Holy Conversations as a guide to their work.


Where are we now?

Pastor Kristin’s May 25th Pastoral Message on Racial Justice describes three primary approaches:

  1. On Juneteenth (Sunday, June 19, 2022), we will hold a community-wide forum after coffee hour at 11:30 where creators of each Beyond February tribute will be invited to share updates, as we prepare to move the tributes to another location inside Epworth. At this forum, we will discuss embarking on a formal process of racial justice assessment focused on Epworth’s culture and structures.

  2. On Wednesday, July 13, 2022, the Truth & Racial Reckoning group will begin a 5-month study of reparations, using the curriculum in the "Tool Kit from Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity” to guide discussions. This will be a zoom meeting from 4-5:30 on the Second Wednesday of the month. Register here to receive the zoom link.

  3. After worship on Sunday, July 10, 2022 at 11:45 AM, Michael Martin, Dianne Rush Woods and Pastor Kristin will be convening those who want to proceed with focused action for racial justice.

What else can we do next?

Epworth’s book group focused on racism and racial justice is on hiatus. In our ongoing commitment to education and reflection, if anyone is interested in leading such a group, please contact Pastor Kristin or Merrie Bunt.


In the feedback to the Holy Conferencing design team, more than one member pointed out that many Epworth members are involved through their professional or volunteer work in advocating for or addressing racial justice in our community. In light of this, if you are interested in a spiritual renewal peer-support group, please contact Pastor Kristin or Merrie Bunt.


We recommend people take a look at Epworth’s racial justice link on Epworth’s website to see the chronology of our activities since 2020: https://www.epworthberkeley.org/racialjustice

Also, the UMC website has links to many of the church wide actions or events related to racial and social justice. And the California Nevada Conference website currently has an ongoing series called “Who is My Neighbor” designed by the Conference Committee on Religion and Race. https://www.cnumc.org/


In closing, we celebrate Epworth’s engagement in the Holy Conversations process and are grateful to the design team and all who shared their life stories, thoughts, lived experiences, and ideas for future action. We celebrate the congregation’s deep commitment to the ongoing work for racial justice and to the next steps that are planned in the weeks and months to come.