Spring 2019
Celebrating Our First Year
Last spring, on April 20, 2018, the Racial Equity Council became a standing council of the Fourth Presbyterian Church Session.

To mark our first year, we are launching this email newsletter, which we look forward to sharing with you in the months ahead. It is our invitation to you to help move our congregation toward becoming a more multiculturally inclusive, antiracist church!

The Racial Equity Council: Dionne Braddix; Esmeraldino Celestino; Linda Crane, Co-Chair; Robert Crouch, Co-Chair; Nedra Sims Fears; Deb Ford; Lisa Garay; Sandra Glenn; Michelle Hayes; Cynthia Johnson; Enjolique McCullough Reed; Maggie McGuire; Steve Stanley; Sarah van der Ploeg; and Samantha Woo, with clergy staff Vicky Curtiss and Nanette Sawyer; Abbi Heimach-Snipes as resource staff
About the Racial Equity Council
The Fourth Church Racial Equity Council (REC)—at least 30 percent of whose members are to be persons of color—is charged with supporting Session in leading our congregation to become a multiculturally inclusive, antiracist church in all areas, including membership, personnel, education, worship, governance, leadership, practices, and policies.

Fourth Church is called to reflect God’s abundant love for all people, especially in areas of difference recognized as the basis of discrimination and inequity in church and society. In order to support and sustain this commitment to racial equity at Fourth Church, we need to directly confront and dismantle bias and racism at the individual, institutional, and systematic levels of the church.

To that end, REC meets monthly and engages in significant conversations as well as personal learning experiences to discern how to assist the Session to move Fourth Church forward toward becoming what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. described as the Beloved Community.

Recognizing the Existence of Racism
The Racial Equity Council recognizes that race prejudice coupled with the misuse of power is systemic racism, which affects many institutions in the U.S., including Fourth Presbyterian Church. We strive to foster an equitable and just environment in which Fourth Church identifies and transforms any vestiges of systemic racism that reinforce racial isolation, exclusion, or inequity.

In moving towards dismantling racism, Fourth Church will better reflect the inclusive love of God. Rejection of “the other” is contrary to the Word of God incarnate in Jesus Christ. Our witness in the world and the spiritual lives of everyone in our church community will be enhanced as everyone will be able to fully participate and contribute their gifts in our congregational life together.

The Racial Equity Council is a catalyst in helping the church achieve this goal. By offering recommendations that challenge racism and foster full inclusion we will be providing a blueprint for change and processes for growth as our church intentionally works against racism.

Our Work This First Year
Since its inception, the Racial Equity Council has been assessing our life together and asking how Fourth Church can be a welcoming and inclusive community for everybody who enters the church doors, especially people of color.

How can we develop the competencies required to build authentic relationships? Are we equipped to reach out in ways that demonstrate love, grace, equity, justice, respect, and mutual support?

In exploring how we might answer those questions as a congregation, REC is working to change exclusionary policies and institutional practices that maintain a white-dominated culture and racial inequity and deny persons of color the opportunity to fully engage in the life of Fourth Church.

Specifically, the council is currently conducting an audit of church operations and ministry. This very comprehensive audit process will provide Session with recommendations for addressing the ways systematic racism is embedded in the culture, structure, programs, policies, mission, and identity of Fourth Church.

This foundational study will assist church leadership in dismantling racism so that we can live into our mission of demonstrating a serious commitment to God’s covenant of love, justice, and peace in human community.

Working Together in Partnership
Particularly rewarding in this past year have been partnerships within Fourth Church to work in collaborative ways to address racial equity. For example, in cooperation with the Worship, Music, and Arts Committee, the Racial Equity Council cohosted the art exhibition “Paradigm Shift,” featuring black subject matter painted and sculpted by African American artist Gerald Griffin and exhibited in our Loggia Gallery during the summer of 2018.

A Sunday-morning adult education class in spring 2018—“Race: The Power of an Illusion”—was offered in collaboration with the Adult Education Committee, and suggested guidelines were presented to the Nominating Committee, with the goal of increasing the number of people of color in church officer roles.

In autumn 2018, the World Mission and Social Justice Committee cosponsored a “History of Oppression and Resistance” tour to Washington, D.C. This autumn the committee is cosponsoring a trip to Mississippi and Alabama, providing opportunity to learn more about the civil rights movement.

These are just a few of the ways our Racial Equity Council has already influenced growth in Fourth Church. We welcome your ideas for other ways in which we might collaborate with groups or programs of which you are a part!
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