Beloved Epworth Community,
Blessings and peace to each of you. First, I want to share that the Do No Harm committee met yesterday. Based on the decline in new case counts, it was determined that the preacher and liturgist can be unmasked in worship, and that we can return to a coffee hour with hospitality. Yeah! However, because the 7-day average has plateaued, we’ll continue to utilize a single song leader for music and hold off on a return to congregational singing. I know we are all deeply desiring of singing together, but please feel free to hum!
Have you registered for the Holy Conversations on Race, Racism and Racial Justice? If not, I encourage you to do so now on this page on our website. This series of conversations is for the whole congregation, wherever you are on your journey in grappling with racism and the call to racial justice. I know our congregation will be changed by this process, and I’m so grateful to the Design Team and all of the groups whose deep engagement, hope and faith have led us to this place. Indeed our whole congregation has been growing in our understanding of how to build and be the beloved community, particularly in the last year and a half.
Now, we bring these threads together in this focused process. In this column, I’ll share with you how to prepare and what to expect.
How to Prepare
I invite you to read the sermon on Implict Bias I preached in May of 2019. There you’ll see three key strategies to unlearn and undo biased assumptions: Mindset, Debiasing and Decoupling. You might want to also take a look at this site that gives even more information, plus a personal assessment, on implicit bias. Finally, please review these Group Norms for engaging with common purpose and common agreement as we head into the series.
What to Expect
Each holy conversation will be conducted in a hybrid format. Those online will login to a Zoom meeting with a view of the Fellowship Hall. There will also be a group participating from the Fellowship Hall. Through a Zoom link and our large screen, we will all be connected in one forum.
After worship, if you are participating online, please make sure to get something to eat and drink during the virtual coffee hour. For those in person at Epworth, light paninis, coffee and tea will be available outside; and you’re welcome to bring your own. At 11:40, please finish anything you are eating or drinking and head into the Fellowship Hall or login to Zoom. We will begin promptly at 11:45 a.m.
The session will begin with gathering music, prayer and welcoming by Kim Hraca and me, a moment for meditation and preview of the day by Rev. Carletta Aston. Then Randall Miller and Judy Cayot will model what it looks like to engage in courageous conversations about and across race. After this presentation, all participants both online and in person will be broken into small groups of four for a guided reflection. We’ll conclude with brief responses back in the large group and closing by Rev. Carletta. For those who would like to stay, Judy Cayot will lead a labyrinth walk immediately following as a way to “walk with” what was experienced, learned, and opened.
Some of the presenters have pre-recorded their pieces and some of the presentations will be done live. Presenters will all use microphones to be heard well by all.
may be maskless if that works for them, but the required social distancing when persons are maskless may not work with camera angles, so masks for even the presenters may be a reality.
All other participants should be masked. The windows in the Fellowship Hall will be opened, so you might want a light jacket.
Finally, you can also share feedback with the Design Team at any time using this form. This can be done anonymously if you choose.
Surrounded in Prayer
Throughout our time together in each holy conversation, Stephen Ministers will be available both in person and online to offer one-on-one support to anyone who would like to debrief or be in prayer regarding what is arising in them.
Please pray for this series of holy conversations and for our congregation. I believe that Epworth is capable of tremendous acts in faith and there is much to do and much to repair when it comes to racism and white supremacy. I believe in your courage and ability to lean in to growing edges. And I believe in our common hope and desire to be a full reflection of God’s diversity and grace.
Sunday Worship: "I've been meaning to ask..."
In worship on Sunday, we’ll continue with the I’ve Been Meaning to Ask series. My message will be rooted in Ruth 1:6-22 and ask the question, “Where Does It Hurt?” An opening hymn with movement and spirit-filled music will draw us deeper into the service. In youth group, Dr. Ramona Coates and Meheret Vazquez-Suomala will guide a conversation for youth to prepare for the Holy Conversation series, as well as to begin to prepare for the youth-led forum. Please continue to pre-register for worship here.
I look forward to being with you this weekend.
Grace and peace,
Beloved Epworth Community,
New Worship Series
This Sunday we begin a new worship series called, “I’ve Been Meaning to Ask…” I’m so excited about this series and the way it draws us into deeper relationship and understanding. The series takes us through four guiding questions:
Where are you from?
Where does it hurt?
What do you need?
Where do we go from here?
My message on Sunday will be centered around the first question, “Where are you from?” and draw from Genesis 2:4b-15 and John 1:35-51. We’ll look at where we all come from as human beings, created from the dust by God, and what happens when we listen to Jesus’ voice who says to us, “Come and See.”
Please continue to pre-register your attendanceso that we can prepare to welcome you back in the sanctuary and for contact tracing purposes.
Each week you are invited and encouraged to take the framing question into conversations after the service and into your days with others. Even though we are not serving coffee/tea or goodies after worship until after September 19, we are still gathering after worship for conversation and connecting. We’ve been blessed in the last two weeks with the beautiful music of Emilie Bergman on cello and Cathryn Bruno on violin while we catch up and reconnect. Emilie and Cathryn will be playing on the lawn again after worship this week, so if you are worshipping in person, please plan on staying and asking the question, “Where are you from?” to someone you’ve been meaning to ask.
If you’re worshipping online, this series will include some additional ways for you to respond via the chat, and I want to invite you again to connect to the virtual coffee hour after worship for an opportunity to ask, “Where are you from?” From the creator of this series, “We believe everyone is beloved, shaped from the dust of the earth and the breath of God. Everyone has a story to tell. Our stories are messy and beautiful, painful and hopeful—being
written and rewritten over time. We commit to disrupting our assumptions and staying curious.”
Our website has additional materials for your journey in this series. There are art pieces for meditation, video vignettes and study guide that can be used with family over dinner, in small groups and Bible studies or in your own prayer time.
Holy Conversations on Racial Justice
As a congregation, we are about to enter a time of holy, courageous conversations. A key component to courageous conversations is the willingness to listen as someone shares from their experience. Our new worship series is designed to help us connect our compassionate listening to the deep work of growing understanding to act for racial justice.
You should have received a letter inviting you into this process that will run from September 19 to November 14. In seven forums after worship, we’ll hear from members of our congregation who have been working on creating the beloved community in all of its diversity, and particularly so since last May. You can register and see the full schedule here.
I’m tremendously grateful to our Design Team led by Kim Hraca who have been meeting since early June to prepare a meaningful and courageous forums. In preparation for this series, I invite you to read again this sermon I preached in May 2019 on implicit bias. Implicit bias refers to an unconscious preference for one group over another. In the sermon, I share three main strategies for working on undoing implicit bias: mindset, debiasing, and decoupling. As we go into our holy conversations on racial justice, these practices offer important grounding. You can also access the Harvard Implicit Association Text referenced in the sermon here.
Please note, the implicit bias test is not perfect and the researchers suggest that an aggregate of several tests are a better predictor for an individual than any single test result.
After worship next week, September 19, we’ll begin this series. You can join in person in the Fellowship Hall (all will be masked and distanced) or online. Our Stephen Ministry team is giving a wonderful gift to our whole congregation by accompanying this process in prayer, and having a Stephen Minister available in person to pray or debrief with you if you need to step out of the forum.
Epworth is regularly lifted up as a special congregation and I believe it is because of your willingness and desire to keep pushing our growing edges and listening for where God is calling us. What is God saying to us now about our history, responsibility and future related to racial justice and building the beloved community? I believe this series will lead us to new understandings on this question and look forward to this engagement with you.
See you Sunday, in person or online!