Take Whiteness and Racial Justice with Kelly Brown Douglas

Kelly Brown Douglas

This week, consider taking Whiteness and Racial Justice with Kelly Brown Douglas For Individuals and For Groups, the second class in our free Lenten series on building racial justice.

In this class, Kelly Brown Douglas, a professor of religion at Groucher College in Baltimore, an author, and an Episcopal priest, discusses how whiteness in America originated and developed as a cherished attribute. Whiteness was a quality that anybody whose skin could possibly be considered “white” claimed eagerly and that put anyone whose skin could not be considered “white” at a huge disadvantage. Since the system was developed and perpetuated by white people, she argues, we cannot expect it to develop organically into a system that treats non-whites justly. Action is required to interrupt a system this ingrained and unbalanced; we cannot expect it to improve on its own.

Why should we focus our energy on disrupting this biased arrangement? Among the many religions across the world, Christianity is unusual in that its God, incarnate on earth, was one of the powerless. Jesus was poor, a member of an occupied nation, and ultimately, he was put to death because of his position in relation to more than one oppressive political force — and in the end, they could not beat him. He came back. He stands with the powerless. As Dr. Brown puts it, “It becomes clear – and became clear to slaves – that in the Bible, God stands on the side of the crucified, not the crucifiers.” This is not a religion that should tolerate, let alone perpetuate, an unjust status quo like the one that continues to thrive in the U.S.

If you would like to learn from Kelly Brown Douglas about racial oppression in the U.S. and how to resist it, please consider taking this class. For a preview, click below.

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Get Involved In an Important Conversation: Spirituality and Racial Justice with Michael Curry.

Bishop Curry

The first class in our free Lenten series, Spirituality and Racial Justice with Michael Curry For Individuals and For Groups, has already produced some strong and intriguing discussion. Here are some samples of your ideas, for which we thank you. If you haven’t taken the class yet, this is a conversation you don’t want to miss.

On developing authentic reconciliation between races:

“Authentic” is the key word here. By “authentic,” I believe he means soulful, prayerful, scary, honest dialogues between people and between groups in an attempt to understand our relationship to one another laid down for us through the teachings of Jesus. Authentic does not mean giving lip service to platitudes. It does mean, to me, tolerating feeling very uncomfortable, angry and frustrated but also, at the same time, loving. Very hard!

On engaging in difficult conversations about race:

While I have found these discussions can happen in many contexts, my experience has been that, to be positively productive, the atmosphere of safety, relationship and openness is critical. I have also found it necessary for me to see these conversations as collaborations in mutuality, where my own deep listening is vital. 

On facing our history with courage:

The example that resonates with me is the vast lexicon of derogatory words built up over time. I was influenced as an English postwar child by an aunt who often explained the world by claiming that “Wogs begin at Calais.” I am mortified and miserable just typing this. Kind, generous speech and accurate word choice is vital if we are to move towards justice and respect for all.

On ways in which congregations can confront racial injustice:

I live in a white, upper middle class community. With this in mind, welcoming people who are not white and with limited financial resources is unthinkable. For many the idea of bringing Anglo and Latino/Hispanics together is not practical. The common answer is that both communities are very different. Well, our church has challenged this preconception and with this is challenging the status quo. We have met a lot of resistance from both communities and from the secular and religious structures. We know that everyone that comes to our church is a parishioner. For many, the tendency is to think that we are two different congregations. Our discussions and efforts are offering a lot of fruits. We call ourselves and we are a bilingual and multiethnic congregation.

Thank you for your contributions to this vibrant and exciting class. Please keep your insights coming. If you haven’t yet taken this class, please join us! Offer your ideas on confronting racial injustice.

For a preview of the class, please click below.

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Pray with the Saints During Lent and Throughout the Year

luwum2Janani Luwun was Archbishop of Uganda and Martyr. He had the dubious fortune to become Archbishop of Uganda when Uganda was being crushed into submission by the government of Idi Amin. Archbishop Luwun stood up to the Amin government’s corrupt, self-serving, and murderous practices despite near-constant threats to Luwun’s life. He protested, both publicly and — this man had serious courage — personally to Amin himself against the arbitrary killings and “disappearances” of people under Amin’s regime. Archbishop Luwun refused to back down and was shot to death by the Amin government in 1977. He was the kind of Christian whom many of us today aspire to be: a Christian who refuses to tolerate the world’s injustices.

The practice of reading about the saints and martyrs on their saints’ days is one that many people find beneficial during Lent. The class we launched last Sunday, Praying with Saints with Scott Gunn and Tim Schenck For Individuals and For Groups, offers many ideas about how to use both the stories and presence of the saints to enrich our Christian lives and ministries.

So why did this post begin with a story about Janani Luwun? Today is the day that The Episcopal Church has set aside to honor and remember Archbishop Luwun as one of our heroes. It is easy to use the liturgical calendar to help us follow this spiritual discipline. Just go to the Calendar of the Church Year and/or to Forward Movement’s Liturgical Calendar, both of which include links to stories and prayers about the saints and martyrs on their saints days. (Here is the Calendar of the Saints version of Archbishop Luwun’s story, and here is Forward Movement’s.)  The internet really does make some things very simple.

Whether or not you have taken Praying with Saints, it would be worth your while to explore these online liturgical calendars and make note of the church’s saints and martyrs and their stories. The stories of the saints and martyrs of the church have inspired Christians since the church began to get up each day and choose to live as followers of Christ.

For a preview of Praying With Saints with Scott Gunn and Tim Schenck, please click below.

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Just Launched: Praying With Saints with Scott Gunn and Tim Schenck


“Saintly Smackdown.” “Ash Thursday.”The Round of Saintly Kitsch.” These phrases either made you wonder what kind of unstable, tacky Lent we observe here at ChurchNext or they made you nod wisely and wonder what’s the next matchup in Lent Madness. Lent Madness, the online devotional tool sponsored by Forward Movement, has been growing in popularity steadily since its inception in 2010. And we don’t like to brag, but we just launched a class taught by the Lent Madness Supreme Executive Committee: Praying with Saints with Scott Gunn and Tim Schenck For Individuals and For Groups.

Lent Madness is fun, but it also brings the saints less formally and more familiarly into Christian households during Lent. This effect is in keeping with Scott and Tim’s emphasis in this class, which focuses on bringing the saints into our lives as deeply honored fellow-Christians. They encourage us to view the saints as companions whose example we wish to emulate, rather than seeing the saints as so many of us do: as far away, unearthly beings, perfect, holy, and inaccessible.

Rather than seeing the saints as looking down on us from pious mountaintops, Scott and Tim encourage us to view saints as accessible figures: fellow-Christians through whom Christ’s light shines exceptionally brightly. We ourselves are saints, they remind us, through our baptisms. The saints whom we celebrate are our people: baptized Christians whom the Church sets apart to remember as our heroes; those of us whose lives shine most brightly. They are the great “cloud of witnesses” who encourage us as we live our lives in Christ.

In this class, Scott and Tim discuss how to learn about the saints, how to see them in relation to our own lives, and how to pray with them. For a preview of the class, please click below.

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Have a Holy and Contemplative Lent

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We hope that your Lenten season is one of spiritual growth and contemplation. If any of our resources can help you focus on your spiritual life in productive ways, we will be grateful. For some ideas on how to use ChurchNext courses to enhance your Lenten experiences, please look at these earlier blog posts.

If you cannot make it out to an Ash Wednesday service for some reason today, Washington National Cathedral is live streaming its Ash Wednesday service at 6:30 this evening.

We pray that your Lenten experience this year brings you closer to God, to your brothers and sisters in Christ, and to God’s created universe.



Just Launched: Three New Classes In Our Free Lenten Curriculum on Building Racial Justice

We have just launched the three remaining classes in our free Lenten curriculum on building racial justice. We hope that you learn a lot about combating racial inequities and building racial justice from these three classes: Reparation and Racial Justice with Jennifer Harvey For Individuals and For Groups, Theology and Racial Justice with J. Kameron Carter For Individuals and For Groups, and Racism and Racial Justice with Eduardo Bonilla-Silva For Individuals and For Groups.

These classes are free throughout Lent of 2016 thanks to the generosity of The Episcopal Church and Trinity Institute, on whose January Conference “Listen for a Change: Sacred Conversations for Racial Justice” these classes are based.

In Reparation and Racial Justice, Jennifer Harvey, an author and lecturer and a religion professor at Drake University, develops an argument that the reconciliation between races for which the American Church has been striving since the late 1970s has not worked. Instead, she argues that reconciliation be adapted as a long term goal and that repentance and reparation be adopted as the white church’s more immediate strategy to work toward that end. For a preview of Dr. Harvey’s class, please click here.

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In Theology and Racial Justice, J. Kameron Carter, a professor of religion at Duke University’s Divinity School, discusses the origins of race, which resulted from Europe’s first forays into the New World and into sub-Saharan Africa. He develops the argument that these first encounters with Africans and with Native Americans were tightly wrapped up in Christian theological thinking and that as the white church developed in North America, the white church remained closely involved with the expropriation and exclusion of people of color. In response, he argues, the black church in America developed an extraordinarily inclusive and ecumenical approach to Christianity. For a preview of Dr. Carter’s class, please click here.

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In Racism and Racial Justice, Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, a professor of sociology at Duke University, examines a new kind of racism in America, one which has developed since the end of the Civil Rights Movement. As opposed to the periods of legal and overt racial aggression that characterized previous periods of racism in the United States, he argues, today’s “colorblind” racism, while equally present, is less overt and in some ways harder to combat. It is based in speech, opinions, and systems that have surface legitimacy, and it corrupts more silently — but no less powerfully — than racism of previous eras. For a preview of Dr. Bonilla-Silva’s class, please click here.

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We hope that these classes support you and your congregation in experiencing a holy Lent. We hope, furthermore, that these instructors’ ideas help to move all of us, with God’s help, to do what sometimes seems impossible: build a more racially just world.

Online Stations of the Cross Resources

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On Sunday, we launched Praying the Stations of the Cross with Kathrin Burleson For Individuals and For Groups. In this class, Kathrin takes students through the fourteen watercolors of her Stations of the Cross, offering commentary and meditation on each scene.

Experiencing the Stations of the Cross service using online tools, through the eyes of a contemporary artist is an extraordinary way to participate in this centuries-old ritual. We wish to offer other online Stations of the Cross resources to those who are interested in using digital technology to connect with Christians across the world and with Christians of the past through this journey with Christ.

The Catholic online magazine Busted Halo (named for all of us small “s” saints Screenshot 2016-02-04 09.53.08with our dented and dirty haloes) offers the Stations of the Cross online using the traditional Catholic stations. Each multimedia station offers dynamic images and textual prayers and meditations, with meditative music behind them. Another traditional online Stations of the Cross is The Liturgy Archive’s The Way of the Cross service, which uses images by glass artist James Caesar and textual prayers. This version uses no music and has static text and images.stations of cross children

Loyola Press offers a multimedia Stations of the Cross for children. Using music, images, and simple meditative text, it offers a child-friendly service that older children who can read can use alone and that younger children can use with their parents’ help.

People who wish to experience the Stations of the Cross as a pilgrimage through the footsteps of Jesus through Jerusalem might try a virtual pilgrimage through sites in Jerusalem that traditionally have been associated with each of the fourteen Stations of the Cross. The site brings visitors to a numbered map through Jerusalem. At each numbered station on the map, the site offers an introduction to what viewers will find there and a slide slow of the buildings and the markers that designate the site as one of the traditional locations for each station. (Be patient with the slide show; it moves slowly.) After the slide show, viewers are shown an image of the altar associated with each station and invited to pray. Each virtual prayer station includes background music and textual prayers.

We hope that you benefit from these online Stations of the Cross offerings as you prepare to experience a holy Lent. If you would like to learn more about Kathrin Burleson’s class, please enjoy this preview.

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