by Sue Washburn, Interim Editor | Presbyterians Today
I can still remember my first encounter with an overt racist. I must have been 8 or 9, and my friend and I were in the back seat. Her mom was driving and started talking to me.
“I was watching a baseball game the other night, and they showed a shot of a really beautiful woman in the stands,” she said. I thought, Who cares? I was going to ignore her, but I caught her eye in the rearview mirror and she had the mom look that told me I should listen.
“I thought she was so lovely,” she continued, her eyes flicking again to the mirror to look at me. “But then they showed her husband at bat. He was a black man.” She paused. “You know, after seeing him I didn’t think she was so pretty anymore.” I felt her eyes on me again.
I didn’t understand what she was trying to tell me, but I knew she was trying to give me an important message. Something in my childhood brain held on to that moment to interpret later.
Chances are that later that day I went back to the miniature golf course my dad and mom ran each summer and spent another afternoon with my friends Alan and Paul, who were black.
Later, it became clear to me what my friend’s mom was trying to tell me. Playing with black boys will diminish you. Make you less than. Today, I understand she was a racist.
It can be so easy to lob the racist word at people whose anger and disdain of others is overt, people like those in Charlottesville. It’s easy for me to remember my friend’s mom and to judge her. But doing this only makes racism her problem, not mine. Racism is my problem, too.
It’s only been through people who have challenged my views that I have been able to realize that even though I would never want to be called a racist, there are times when I’ve said and done things that have indeed been racist. Importantly, I didn’t even realize it.
One of the stories in this issue is about a church that is sponsoring a group modeled after the 12-step Alcoholics Anonymous program. Talking about our experiences in the context of a 12-step program is a great way to face our own racism.
In 12-step programs, the first step to dealing with a problem is admitting there is a problem.
So, I admit to you that I am racist. I hate the way those words look on the page. I want to qualify them with words like unintentional or occasional. I want them to not be true. I don’t feel like a racist.
My husband has a saying, “You’re not in traffic; you are traffic.” We don’t live in a racist culture; we are the racist culture. By virtue of my skin color and culture, I am part of the racial inequality in America.
Steps four and five of the 12-step program call for a fearless moral inventory and admission to the exact nature of our wrongs. And so I confess these wrongs:
Assuming we are all the same. Yes, I was raised to believe that skin color and ethnicity don’t matter, that we are all the same. I assumed that if we could just get along, everyone could blend into the melting pot of the white, middle-class lifestyle I lived. It never occurred to me that not everyone wanted to live that way until a classmate at seminary told me otherwise.
Doing mission for people. My husband and I were setting up chairs at a men’s shelter when one of the residents came in and asked us what we were doing. I said we were getting ready for the dinner.
He told us that setting up the chairs was his job and we were taking an opportunity to serve his community away from him.
“Don’t you come in here and rob me of my blessing,” he said. That day we learned we were not white saviors.
Making socioeconomic judgments. I moved from working in a city neighborhood where we ministered with and to a lot of people who were both African-American and poor. When I moved to a small-town parish, I made the same assumptions about class and race. I soon discovered that many people in the African-American church in town shared the same education and income level as many of the Presbyterians. I confess I assumed the poorest people in the community were black.
I admit these wrongs because I suspect they may be shared by a lot of other well-meaning people who would be horrified to think of themselves as racist. We are racism. Once we face that ugly truth, we can begin the hard work of recovering.
Hurricane Irma, a record-setting storm, is now dissipating, but the devastation is just starting to be known.
Members of PDA’s National Response Team will arrive in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina this week to provide aid, assess damage, and offer spiritual and emotional care for those impacted by the winds and flooding. While PDA has already been in contact with presbyteries throughout Florida and Puerto Rico, the Church remains mindful of the areas where contact has, so far, been difficult to make. Once the information arrives from the Florida Keys as well as the Caribbean islands nearly wiped from the map, the destruction of this storm will begin to be fully known.
There are years of recovery ahead. PDA’s emergency response and specialization in long-term recovery is fueled by your generous gifts. Designate gifts to: Atlantic Regional Hurricanes DR000194. You can also give with a credit card by visiting presbyterianmission.org/GIVE-Irma or by calling 800-872-3283.
PDA is still in need of support for mucking out and rebuilding efforts in the Gulf region after Harvey. Thank you to those of you who have already directed gifts to (DR000169-Harvey).
Once again this year, our Northminster community will partner with folks from Central Woodward Christian Church (CWCC) and Congregational Church of Birmingham (CCB) hosting homeless men, women and children.
The host site this year is at CWCC and our dates for this mission opportunity are Sunday Oct. 15 – Sunday Oct. 22. We start with all churches asked to help set-up at CWCC Sunday after church, then picking up guests and bringing them to the church around 5:00, and all contributing towards the first group meal of soups, chili, salads and desserts.
As most of you know, throughout the week, food is needed for breakfasts, packed lunches, dinners and afternoon snacks. We also need lots of help with drivers after breakfast and at the end of the business day, as well as hosts during the guests’ hours at CWCC, cooks and food servers and more. Please look for future information indicating all the ways you might help, as well as sign-up sheets to be in the Sanctuary, in just a few short weeks. NPC folks have been amazingly supportive in past years, and we know we can count on you again!
Once again this year, our Northminster community will partner with folks from Central Woodward Christian Church (CWCC) and Congregational Church of Birmingham (CCB) hosting homeless men, women and children. The host site this year is at CWCC and our dates for this mission opportunity are Sunday Oct. 15 – Sunday Oct. 22. We start with all churches asked to help set-up at CWCC Sunday after church, then picking up guests and bringing them to the church around 5:00, and all contributing towards the first group meal of soups, chili, salads and desserts. As most of you know, throughout the week, food is needed for breakfasts, packed lunches, dinners and afternoon snacks. We also need lots of help with drivers after breakfast and at the end of the business day, as well as hosts during the guests’ hours at CWCC, cooks and food servers and more. Please look for future information indicating all the ways you might help, as well as sign-up sheets to be in the Sanctuary, in just a few short weeks. NPC folks have been amazingly supportive in past years, and we know we can count on you again!
Sunday, October 1, is World Communion Sunday. During worship, we will celebrate our connection with Christians around the world as we come to the Lord's Table.
World Communion Sunday was born November 1, 1936. In the winter of 1935, some ministers met to study the spiritual needs and possibilities of the church in the midst of the Great Depression. In the Lord's Supper, they saw a prime opportunity to unite Christians in re-dedication to the Lord Jesus Christ. In 1937, General Assembly changed the date of World Communion to the first Sunday of October.
In this holy meal, we who are many are made one, united with Christ and with the faithful in every time and place. The unity given in this Sacrament is a sign of the unity God wills for all creation. Thus, made one at the table of our Lord, we offer ourselves anew in obedient service to God's reign as we await the fulfillment of the kingdom Christ proclaimed: "People will come from east and west, from north and south, and sit at table in the kingdom of God."
Also on October 1, we will have opportunity to witness to the good news of God's peace by receiving the Peace and Global Witness Offering. Each of us has experienced the pain that results from the brokenness existing in our lives, our community, and the world. This annual offering of the Presbyterian Church (USA) reminds us that in the midst of brokenness we are called to be part of God's healing presence to a world full of hurts and divisions.
I invite all of you to come together on October 1 celebrating the Lord's Supper, renewing our commitment to God, and responding to Christ's call to foster peace.
Neeta R. Nichols
Members from the Building & Grounds committee are in the process of painting the pastor’s office.
It’s been awhile since it was freshened up, and the space is being brightened!
If you would like to lend a hand or just admire our work, reach out to John Cole, Curt Lundy, Doug Riddering, and Joe Turner.
Thank you to them for their hard work once again!
Our annual Northminster Fall Workday is coming up Saturday, November 11, 9am-2pm.
Pizza lunch provided!
There is plenty to do, outside and in, and many hands will make for lighter work! Bring your favorite cleaning supplies and equipment (Swiffers, vacuums, etc)…and rakes (in case the leaves have fallen).
Help beautify and maintain Northminster, and enjoy wonderful fellowship and free lunch! Mark your calendars and join us!
Women’s Bible Study on third Mondays will resume on Monday, October 16. Bring your own lunch at noon, and discussion will begin at 12:30pm.
The book, Cloud of Witnesses: The Community of Christ in Hebrews by Melissa Bane Sevier is on order and can be picked up for $10 in the office when available. The Letter to the Hebrews is a significant book of the Bible, and is also significantly different from every other book in the Bible. It consists of thirteen chapters, all of which are packed with theology, metaphor, comparisons, and spirituality. Therefore, I’ve decided to approach the letter thematically, not sequentially. We will explore nine major themes, relate those themes to other parts of our faith tradition, and tie them together with the overarching motif of community. The community for which the letter was written interacts, in a sense, with all the communities of which you are a part, because you bring those groups with you wherever you go—they have helped to form you into the person you are. The community in which you study and worship, your family and friends, social and therapy groups . . . all are part of you.
Contact Clay Dobrovolec at email@example.com if you plan to join us.
Join us for the Women’s Lunch at Crumpets at Somerset Inn, as we resume meeting on fourth Mondays at 11:30am, beginning October 25.
Please contact the office at 248-288-3735 or firstname.lastname@example.org if you can join us for table reservations.
Northminster Presbyterian Church
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