Doing Our Own Work is an intensive seminar for white people who seek to deepen their commitment to confronting and challenging racism and white privilege where they live, study, and work. It is our conviction that those of us who are white need to “do our own work” – educating ourselves, confronting racism, holding each other accountable, and demonstrating good faith as we seek to build genuine and lasting coalitions with people of color. Doing Our Own Work is designed as a supplement to, not a substitute for, contexts where people of diverse races discuss and strategize together how racism can be challenged.
–Allies for Change website, http://alliesforchange.org/
Above is the brief description of the anti-racism workshop that I attended in Kalamazoo two weeks ago. It is the description that caught my attention when I did a Google search for anti-racism training three months ago. When I discovered that Doing Our Own Work (DOOW) was going to be offered in June, I was excited to find a training that was close by, that was affordable and that worked with my busy calendar so I immediately signed up. A couple of weeks ago, I finished my DOOW homework reading, packed a small suitcase and drove my 1996 Ford pick-up (no air-conditioning!) to a Catholic retreat center in Kalamazoo to learn more about how to be an anti-racist ally.
Now I have been at many a continuing education seminar over the years. I have learned about healthy conflict resolution, about multi-media worship experiences, about how to reach the “post-modern, un-churched young adult.” I have learned about church growth, about church renewal, and about starting a new congregation. I have learned how to construct a sermon and how to incorporate new music into worship. I have learned about different stewardship strategies and how to use technology as an evangelism tool. Yes, I have been to many, many continuing ed opportunities, and many (not all, though) have been quite helpful. However, all of these experiences were focused on skills and strategies, goals and structures—they were indeed “trainings.” Well, Doing Our Own Work was no “training.” I didn’t leave with a strategy or a set of goals in hand. I don’t have a to-do list in mind or an adult education class planned. I confess I haven’t a clue about the next step to take here at COGS to continue to reach our vision of being truly multi-racial, multi-cultural.
Having attended other anti-racism events before, I expected to be challenged, to be encouraged to confront my own fears and prejudices, to begin thinking about how to dismantle systemic racism, and to be sure, all of that occurred. But this experience went so much deeper. Why, you ask? Because I am in your midst now—I am the pastor of The Church of the Good Shepherd, United Church of Christ, Ann Arbor, MI. This anti-racism work isn’t about programs or long-term strategic plans. It is about who we are as a faith community. It isn’t a side-line endeavor. It is the core of our identity. This isn’t about something I, as pastor, am going to do for you. It is about a long-standing legacy of anti-racism work onto which we build together.
I have so much to unpack about my “training.” But I am so grateful that I get to unpack it in this place. God’s peace and love.