By: Minnesota Church and Society Ministry Team
Racial justice, or the lack thereof, is currently on many people’s minds. With media coverage concentrating on it daily, the task of understanding it and moving toward action can seem daunting, like a Sisyphean task. The ancient Greek myth of Sisyphus portrays him as one who continually rolls a rock uphill only to have it fall back again in endless cycle.
However difficult it may be at times, the work of justice is meaningful and purposeful, and can be your answer to God’s call for the transformation of the world.
We don’t want you to be daunted by it all. That is why we are offering a specific grant of up to $300 to help members of your church purchase books for a small (or large) group study on racial justice.
You can apply for and obtain the grant by agreeing to complete these three steps:
Step 1: Offer a book study in your church using one of these books. Go to the links to read about each book:
- How to Be an Antiracist, by Ibram X. Kendi: Has the best reviews as being a good starting point for white people but may not be of interest to BIPOC (black, indigenous, and people of color).
- The Origin of Others by Toni Morrison: This book takes a different tact; it's not a "how to" book but instead consists of shorter pieces with both literature and history. It possibly appeals across different cultures. In other words, it's not just for white people. This and the next book both have a narrative. There is info here but many of us learn best by telling our stories and hearing others' stories.
- Massacre at Sand Creek: How Methodists Were Involved in an American Tragedy by Gary L. Roberts: Commissioned by The United Methodist Church, this book addresses racism related to First Nations people. This is the diversity that exists in many Minnesota communities. It also has UMC connections—including the perpetrators of the tragedy and the UMC commissioning this work from Gary Roberts (who is not Methodist). This book was on the United Methodist Women 2018 reading list
- Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools by Monique W. Morris: Relates to the school-to-prison pipeline. This is one of the 2020 United Methodist Women Mission U study books but may be a turn-off to some because of raw street language and content. Morris includes bits of narrative but the book is mostly informational. Morris tends to insert a lot of her opinion in the midst of giving information.
- White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo: Again, this is a book that is likely to appeal to white people. It's addressed to white people more than to BIPOC (black, indigenous, and people of color).
- Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi: This is a young adult version of Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America. It's suitable for ages 12 and up, making it possible to have intergenerational book reads and discussions.
Join in conversations with one or more other churches from different cultural experiences that have done the same study. If requested, Church and Society will help you find a partner church.
Partner with at least one other church from a different cultural experience for the purpose of promoting racial justice and learning about another culture’s lived reality. Ideas for partnerships to fulfill this purpose while social distancing:
- Each church invite the other church to one or more of their Zoom or Facebook live events that reflect the culture of that community. In the spring, perhaps there’s an outdoor event (not a fundraiser!) that fits the purpose.
- Share a virtual worship service at each other’s church or plan one together that incorporates something from each culture. For fun, have one of each church’s soloists sing the same song from one of the United Methodist hymnals and talk about similarities and differences.
- After learning about incidents of racial (in)justice in Minnesota, gather at sites of significance for silent prayer. Stand in family groups while masked and at least six feet from others. Before or afterwards, drive through the neighborhood; perhaps pick up a take-out meal to eat in family groups. Having trouble thinking of places? Here are a few suggestions:
- the George Floyd memorial (stand for 8 minutes and 44 seconds in silent prayer)
- the area where Philando Castile lived, where he worked, and where he was killed
- places throughout Minnesota that have or had racial covenants
- the site of the lynching of Elias Clayton, Elmer Jackson, and Isaac McGhie in Duluth
- the site of the execution of 38 Dakota men in Mankato
- Fort Snelling (after learning its historical connections to enslaved Africans)
- Be creative and find your own project that honors and respects the contribution each church can offer so that both can promote racial justice.
In the Wesleyan tradition, the Church and Society Team of the Minnesota Annual Conference seeks justice in a variety of social issue contexts. Its goal is to stimulate conversation, educate, and encourage one another toward biblically and theologically grounded action.
Church and Society also helps United Methodists play a prophetic role in bringing God’s vision of the beloved community into reality. To this end, we offer Peace and Justice Grants on a regular basis to United Methodist congregations and ministry teams that believe God wants them to do a new thing in their local church and beyond.
Apply for a grant