Racial Justice Ministry: Year in Review

July 2021

Dear FPCW Members and Friends:
Fifteen months ago, we all watched the news footage of the brutal killing of George Floyd on the streets of Minneapolis. We joined the worldwide outcry of disbelief and horror about the event, and as a church, we felt strongly that God was calling us to respond. It was then that FPCW’s Racial Justice Task Force was formed under the leadership of Pastor Jeff Lehn. The group began the work of learning more about racial injustices and inequities while simultaneously making a commitment to help dismantle the structures and systems that have allowed them to exist since the founding of this country. The group has met regularly for more than a year, working to build awareness, develop relationships, and make a commitment to dismantling racist structures, laws, and policies. 
Our inspiration for this work comes from the very first words of Scripture which teach us that we are all created in the image of God, male and female, of every race and people, to live as one community (Genesis 1:26-27). In the ministry of Jesus, in word and deed, we see him embodying the ways of love, breaking down the dividing walls of hostility between people, and letting the kingdom of God emerge in the most unlikely places. In our baptismal identity, too, we are reminded that the core of our identity is that we are all children of God and called to love our neighbor.
The task force (which has recently become an official church committee) developed the following mission statement that outlines what we hope our work will achieve:
Given the history of the Presbyterian Church and Chicago’s North Shore communities, the FPCW Racial Justice Task Force is committed to thoroughly, intentionally, and continuously leading the First Presbyterian Church of Wilmette and the surrounding communities to root out and dismantle the evils of racism and white supremacy embedded in our social structures. Further, we aspire to have FPCW and the surrounding communities become models for inclusive, anti-racist, and multicultural places of worship and living. Nothing is more central to Christian beliefs than the sharing of Christ’s love among all people regardless of their backgrounds or circumstances. Love, in turn, seeks justice for all of God’s children.
We have been meeting for more than a year, reading, discussing, praying, and planning as we wrestle with how we at FPCW, as a faithful Christian community, can work toward the dismantling of systemic racism and realize God’s vision for a world in which all can flourish as God’s children. 
Here is a list of some of the highlights of the work of the group over the past year:
  • Sponsored a 4-week Zoom series with PhD. Divinity student Andrew Packman who spoke on the history of racism, the sin of racism, the American story of racism, and Chicago’s story of racism. Available for viewing on our YouTube channel.
  • Installed a large sign on the corner of 9th and Greenleaf with the words "Black Lives Matter to God and to Us". Our thanks to Stephanie and John Phelan for their work on the design and creation of the sign.
  • Put together and shared with the congregation a Racial Justice Challenge to coincide with Black History Month. Our thanks to Madeline Weston for her part in putting this together. It is still available on our website…so please check it out.
  •  Sponsored two weeks of Sunday Adult Faith Formation Zoom classes. Speakers were Tracy McKeithen, Director of Family Promise and Sue Murphy of Interfaith Action. Both are Mission Partners of FPCW.
  • Partnered with the mission committee to visit New Life Baptist Church on Chicago’s south side. The church is a mission partner of FPCW and the church’s pastor, Reverend House, offered the sermon on May 23 at FPCW.
  • Sponsored a summer Zoom speaker series. Evanston resident Meleika Gardner spoke on the bill she co-sponsored to ensure that Illinois children learn the history of Black people (and other groups) in the U.S. Former Wilmette Village President John Jacobi spoke about the history of race on the North Shore. Both sessions are posted on our YouTube channel.
We know that our work is just beginning, and we invite you to come with us as we take the next steps on the journey toward achieving racial justice and equity. If you are interested in joining us in this work, please contact any of our committee members.
With Gratitude for our Supportive Congregation and With Thanks to God,
Jeff Lehn, Bill Bishop, Bob Bobesink, Carolyn Holtermann, Pete Holtermann, Laura Lyman, Mary Watt