I know the title seems a bit aggressive (at least to me) and not something I would go around saying personally but last year when I attended this first conference, I was hopeful for what it could be. I was not disappointed. I left both informed and inspired by what was thoughtfully shared and silently wished that more people would have come to participate in person. I know that many watched online and I appreciated that it was streamed live so that more could watch and have discussions in their own spaces.
I’m glad I got past the name of the conference or maybe what it might mean about me if I promoted this event. I was hesitant at first, but then as it got going last year and I realized this was being done in a respectful way on both sides with hearts of humility and awareness, I shared it with others. I even set up and hosted an impromptu Zoom conversation and 3 others bravely joined me during the lunch break to discuss what we just heard. I was so inspired by our time of sharing with one another! (I took a photo of us, but then I thought I don’t have to share everything so I never posted it.)
But that was last year (2022), what about now? I’m inviting you all to watch the “Racism in the White Church” conference hosted at George W Truett Seminary on February 16-18, 2023 (see links below). Consider reflecting on anything that comes up for you. You can journal alone about this. You could host discussions about this even if you (or your church) wouldn’t ever think of or call yourselves racist or involve yourself in any racist activities. I expect there will be something we all could learn from this time together. I’m looking forward to participating again in-person this year myself.
I have learned that my way of seeing things is not the only way that exists. It means so much to me that I am currently serving as a person that helps strangers feel safe enough with me that they can share with me whatever is on their mind as a hospital and hospice chaplain. I am invited in, literally and spiritually, to minister to these persons that I would have NEVER run into or had any conversation with before this if it were not for my role. I believe that I am able to be present with so many different types of people because I try to approach the work that I do with a lot of humility and awareness. I have had to work on both of these areas and it wasn’t really intentional.
God used multiple ways to ‘show me myself’ and I was deeply grieved when I recognized it starting specifically in the summer of 2020 through a relationship with a close friend. Now I’m growing more and more aware of myself, and the perspectives of the other, which I didn’t truly consider before (even though I was so sure I did). I know I have bias – a way that I view situations and people shaped by my culture, my background, and my experiences in life. This is normal to have a bias. But it is good to know what my biases are so that I am aware of why I respond or act in the ways that I do. But there are also areas of bias that I am NOT aware of, my ‘unconscious bias.’ Others see these areas that I don’t see and they create my ‘blind-spots.’ I want to decrease these blind-spots in my life, but I can’t do it alone. I know I need others to help me, to show me myself. But no one else can fully do the work for me. I need to recognize that something needs to change. God opened my eyes through the situation I mentioned earlier, but maybe in other areas, I became aware on my own. Either way, I have had to consider that I don’t know everything I thought I did and perhaps I don’t fully understand what it’s like to be in another person’s shoes. The best way I have learned to grow here is to keep a willingness to engage, and to listen, and to learn from others different than me. Sometimes I can ask candid questions but I recognize I have to be invited into these deeper spaces. And then I take all of that that I’ve observed and learned to God in my own way. I ponder these things in my heart and over time, I find myself wanting more of what God wants and living a life a little more closely aligned to God’s ways.
I want to continue to be a person that examines myself to see how I can better be and reflect the character of the person of Jesus through the ways that I live out my life. I try to resource and empower others to increase their learning and grow. Perhaps this conference could spark conversation in your heart and/or within your circles on topics of racism in the church or on diversity, equity, and inclusion. If you’re able to attend in person, it’s in Waco at the George W Truett Seminary of Baylor University campus Feb 16-18th, 2023 . Register here: https://www.baylor.edu/truett/index.php?id=981993
Otherwise, until something is made available online, I hope you’ll check out the 2022’s “Racism in the White Church” conference recordings here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JEKvxluULrI&list=PLCw5JU5PrBMQVo06woE3VZxN8LDgnQLol
Let me know your thoughts if you checked out the conference. I’d love to share with one another if you’re open to it. You can contact me privately as well, if you prefer.