Anti-Racism Church

If you missed our discussion sessions, you can always email or call us to ask questions, share your views, and enter into this important conversation. A special task group is working on diving deeper into what becoming an Anti-Racist Church would mean for New Paltz UMC and how we might move forward towards fully living into this commitment.

March 2021

Beloved NPUMC Family,

One of the most affirming statements I have heard in doing anti-racism work was this: ‘If you think it is hard hearing about racism all the time, you should try living it for a while.’ When I get weary, tired, frustrated, and feel hopeless, I think of that observation and realize that because people are tired of living it (myself included) I cannot afford the luxury of giving up on talking about it.

Since I came to NPUMC and almost immediately found myself in the breach at the ‘Flag March,’ we have been hard at work grappling with racial injustice as a congregation. Well before the lynching of George Floyd, we were opening ourselves to opportunities for sacred conversation, repentance, and kin-dom building action. I want to take a moment to say that’s a really big deal.

When I arrived here, I think it is fair to say many members of the congregation would have said that racism and being a racist is about how individuals treat each other. Many of us would have said (rightly) that we treat individuals well and (wrongly) therefore are not racist. Many of us would have insisted that the church should not ‘be so political’ and focus instead on Christ’s love and salvation of us in a personal way. A lot of us would have pointed to our work to be a place of welcome for the LGBTQI+ community as evidence that we had finished the work of inclusion. And most of us would have bristled and outright rejected the thought that we have, use, and enjoy white privilege, if we would have been willing to name that it exists at all.

That feels like a long, long time ago now. Rather than stay in a place of defensiveness and fear, we have embraced the learning required to find our weaknesses and grow from them. To repent, repair, and rebuild ourselves in a way that more closely matches our vision of the kin-dom of God. We have studied – Dear White Christians, White Fragility, Stand Your Ground, BLM 101 Group, Exodus Bible Study, preaching series. This has lead to a great deal of soul searching, and as I listen to many of you, a great deal of repentance and liberation.

Years ago, this church did another round of soul searching, leading to the vote to become a Reconciling Congregation in the UMC. Now I am asking that we prayerfully consider becoming an Anti-Racist Congregation. We are already doing the work. This is largely about making it ‘official’ and clearly letting the rest of our community know of our commitment. Here’s a link to a single, simple site that articulates the principles of being an Anti-Racist Church:

As your pastor, I am proud of your commitment to spiritual and social growth. As a person of color, I am grateful to you for your willingness to step outside of your own lived experience. As a Christian, I rejoice in your example of spiritual bravery and how it is inspiring others. As an American, I see in this congregation the real possibility of a more perfect union.

I want to give everyone a chance to review the link above, ask questions, and pray. Then we can gather via Zoom to have conversation and make our decision together. We will host zoom conversations around this on Friday March 19 at 10 a.m., Sunday, March 21 immediately after worship, and Monday, March 22 at 7 p.m. After Easter, once everyone has had a chance to contemplate, we will hold a special Church Conference to vote on our decision.

Prayers for Peace with Justice,

Pastor Jenn

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