Holy Conversations on Race, Racism, and Racial Justice

Beloved Epworth Community,


In the fall of 2021, Epworth will embark on a seven-part journey of learning and courageous conversations about race, racism, and racial justice with the vision of articulating as a congregation what God is calling God’s people to do. As a community of faith, we believe that to embody the Beloved Community is to continually be working toward a more racially just world.


A number of Epworth folk have been working for decades in the areas of diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice. Some have been involved in anti-racist work in the larger community as well. And over the past year, many more in the Epworth community have responded to the call to deeper engagement, including:

  • through anti-racist book and film discussions groups

  • by creating works of art that honor the lives of African Americans killed by police

  • by grappling with the history that led to the establishment of Epworth -- from the legacy of white supremacy in our denomination to the effects of systemic and institutional racism in our own neighborhood

Wherever you are in your own journey, it is our intent that this process called holy conferencing will bring together every voice in our congregation to listen deeply with love and compassion, to share our learnings and lived experiences, and to begin to articulate what we believe is God’s call for ourselves and our church.

Having difficult conversations takes courage to move past our fears and skepticisms to come to the table with open ears and open hearts. At Epworth, we have used the holy conferencing model to discern about becoming a Sanctuary Church and in preparation for the 2019 special General Conference. In each holy conference session, facilitators will guide us in building and maintaining the foundations of trust and risk-taking in our holy conversations. Stephen Ministers will also be present during each session, to be in prayer for the congregation and our discernment, as well as to offer one-on-one support to anyone who would like to debrief or be in prayer regarding what is arising in them. Music and physical movement will also be woven into each session. To ensure accessibility and that everyone can participate as safely and comfortably as possible, each holy conferencing session will be hybrid, meaning you can participate in person or through Zoom.

The culmination of the holy conferencing journey will be on November 14th where we will directly engage the question, “What is God saying to God’s people about racial equity and justice?” It is our hope that by listening to each other and for God, we will develop a common vocabulary to later draft a statement of commitment to racial justice under the guidance of the church council. That statement would then be presented to the community to be affirmed and adopted, in a manner similar to those statements declaring Epworth to be a reconciling congregation and sanctuary church. This statement will guide, inspire and reflect our individual and collective actions in building a more racially just world.

The first part in this series will be on Sunday, September 19th after worship. Pre-register your attendance and find the latest details, panelist names, Zoom links, and safety protocols at www.EpworthBerkeley.org/RacialJustice


In faith,

The Holy Conference Design Team: Rev. Carletta Aston, Merrie Bunt, Mary Cavagnaro, Judy Cayot, Greg Downs, Kim Hraca, Shan McSpadden, Randall Miller, Rev. Kristin Stoneking, Meheret Vásquez-Suomala


Holy Conferencing Schedule

Sundays from 11:45 AM - 1 PM in Fellowship Hall & via Zoom (hybrid format)


1 - The Courage to have Difficult Conversations

September 19, 2021

Introduction to holy conferencing, modeling courageous conversations, and engaging with our whole selves.

Facilitators: Rev. Kristin Stoneking, Kim Hraca, Rev. Carletta Aston

Panelists: Judy Cayot & Randall Miller


2 - I Know I've Been Changed

October 3, 2021

"A-ha!" moments through anti-racism book discussion groups.

Facilitators: Carol Baumbauer, Sally Nasman


3 - Truth & Racial Reckoning

October 10, 2021

Epworth reflecting on its own history within the neighborhood and denomination in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder.

Facilitators: Greg Downs, Kim Hraca, Michael Martin, Navarre Oaks


4 - Listening to the Voices of People of Color - Part 1

October 17, 2021

Courageous conversations with persons of color honoring our heritage and sharing our lived experiences with the entire Epworth community.

Facilitators: Rev. Carletta Aston, Randall Miller

Panelists: Connie Adachi, María Gallo, Barbara Stone, Dianne Rush Woods


5 - Listening to the Voices of People of Color - Part 2

October 24, 2021

Courageous conversations going deeper than the binary of the black and white racial struggle, including through the lens of bi-racial and multiracial identities.

Facilitators: Mikko Jokela, Shan McSpadden

Panelists: Amelia Chua, Michael Martin


6 - Youth Speak on Race and Racism

November 7, 2021

Centering the voices and lived experiences of young people.

Facilitators: Meheret Vasquez-Suomala, Ramona Coates


7 - What is God Saying to God's people?

November 14, 2021

Round table (and round screen) conversations to reflect on our lived experiences and what we’re learning/unlearning about racial justice, while listening to what God is saying to God’s people about racial equity and justice.

Facilitators: Rev. Kristin Stoneking, Kim Hraca


Hybrid Format:

To ensure accessibility and that everyone can participate as safely and comfortably as possible, each holy conferencing session will be hybrid, meaning you can participate in person or through Zoom.



Surrounded by Prayer:

Stephen Ministers will be surrounding our congregation in prayer throughout this journey, and will be available to offer one-on-one support to anyone who would like to debrief or be in prayer regarding what is arising in them.


Childcare:

If you are interested in childcare, please check the childcare box when you register.


Group Norms

Having difficult conversations takes courage to move past our fears and skepticisms to come to the table with open ears and open hearts. To ensure a safe space for all voices and to maintain the foundations of trust and risk-taking, the design team offers this resource: Group Norms (Please Read!)

Feedback Form

You can also share feedback with the Design Team at any time using this form This can be done anonymously if you choose.