What do you “see”?

By Pastor Kelly Chatman

Wishing you God’s richest blessing as we enter this Advent season and new church year. In addition to serving part time on synod staff, I am blessed to serve a wonderfully diverse congregation. Redeemer is a 110-year-old Lutheran congregation and in our Sunday worship we usually number around 100 people.

Among the worshipers are people of different ages, social, economic, racial, and economic backgrounds. I like to think that our diversity looks somewhat like the diversity of our city. There are a lot of things I would love to share with you about Redeemer but what I really want to share with you is the adult education series we just completed this week.

One of our congregation’s leaders proposed that the church council listen to a 12-hour podcast called Seeing White. She assembled a leadership team, offered facilitator training, applied for a Thrivent Action Team grant, and scheduled the ten-part Sunday adult education series.

 

NOW, I ADMIT THAT I was skeptical. I have served at Redeemer for 18 years and, during that time, I have made multiple attempts to get more than five or six people to participate in Sunday morning adult education and failed. Though I fully supported the series in concept, in my head I was thinking, “Right” people are not going to show up.”

But the team was not deterred. Those who were too busy to listen to the podcast during the week were invited to come early on Sunday morning to listen to that hour-long podcast session. Then at 9:00 a.m., people who had listened in advance would join the early-birds to discuss the week’s session. They would begin each session with a litany, followed by shared ground rules and facilitated time in large and small group discussion.

“The 25 people who gathered each week for adult education participated in a ten-week series addressing one of the most critical issues affecting our nation and church today. Race is reflected in our politics, economics, education system, and religion.”

Here is the amazing thing: People showed up. Each week a quarter of our worshiping community showed up to participate in this rich and important adult education opportunity. Wait, there’s more.

Those 25 people who gathered each week for adult education participated in a ten-week series addressing one of the most critical issues affecting our nation and church today. The issue of race is baked deep into the American experience. Race is reflected in our politics, economics, education system, and religion. Race influences where we shop, live, and worship. “We are swimming in the issue of race,” I have heard it described.

John Biewen, Scene on Radio host and producer, took a deep dive, accompanied with an array of leading scholars and regular guest Dr. Chenjerai Kumanyika. Loretta Williams served as series editor for this documentary series, released between February and August 2017. Seeing White was produced by Duke University and public radio.

I cannot endorse the Seeing White Podcast enough. The series is extremely well done, and it comes with a study guide. All you need is a leader on your church council who dares to think outside the box, a church council willing to say “yes,” a few folks to serve as facilitators, and a Thrivent Action Team to cover the cost of refreshment. Yes, you need a group of people bold and caring enough to “see white.”