Monday, June 8, 2020

NOTE: This email has been updated to have the correct
Zoom link for the "Faith in Living Color" series (below) .
"Faith in Living Color": Race, Racism, and Christian Discipleship
New three-part series beginning on Wednesday

“Racial justice has been a central part of my life and work since I was in high school,” J.C. Austin says.

“That was the late 1980s. I had grown up hearing about the Civil Rights Movement and the importance of the Christian Church in helping to tear down Jim Crow and establish the freedom to vote for black people, but that all happened before I was born.

"But in the late 1980s, the global movement to end apartheid in South Africa had really taken off. I first became aware of it because of the activism of musicians that I liked, but then I got more directly engaged when I realized that the movement in South Africa was being led by Desmond Tutu, an Episcopal archbishop who was so compelling because he talked in very Christian terms in opposing racism and white supremacy and calling for justice through nonviolent change.
"That was why I ended up living and studying there for a year after seminary, because I really wanted to understand how the Christian Church could have simultaneously helped create apartheid and led the way in dismantling it. And that experience profoundly shaped the course of my ministry ever since, as a pastor and teacher and theologian.”
About four or five years ago, J.C. was serving as Vice President for Christian Leadership Formation at Auburn Seminary, a Presbyterian-affiliated institution that is more like an advanced faith leadership institute than a traditional seminary.

“After the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement and the Ferguson protests,” he says, “I kept finding myself in conversations with white pastors and congregations who were saying, ‘I feel like we need to do something, but I don’t know enough to even know what that means, and I’m afraid of saying or doing something wrong if I try to engage.’”

So he developed a course that could be taught at conferences, in congregations, and with clergy groups that was geared to those very people. “’Faith in Living Color’ is designed for anyone, but white people in particular,” he says, “who want to understand the basics of why race and racism are such important and such difficult topics for white people to engage. It is specifically designed not to be ‘here’s why you should feel bad about being white,’ but rather to look at these issues from pastoral and sociological and theological standpoints.

"By the end of the second session, most of the comments I receive are along the lines of, ‘I never really understood this before. Now what do I do?’ Which is why the last segment of the course is on precisely that issue: here’s what you can do to keep deepening your understanding and start taking real action.”
Over the next three weeks, J.C. is going to offer “Faith in Living Color” via Zoom for First Presbyterian members and friends as one of the first ways that we as a congregation are responding to the national debate about systemic racial injustice.

While you don’t have to be in every class to participate, you are strongly encouraged to attend all three as they do build on each other. We hope that you will make a special effort to be part of the course.
Here is the information to join the session on Zoom:

Wednesdays: June 10, June 17, and June 24
7-8:30 p.m.
No registration needed

Meeting ID: 885 3951 3725
Password: 791308

via phone (audio only):
Call 929-205-6099; when prompted enter the Meeting ID: 885 3951 3725   followed by the # key. You will be asked for the participant ID – simply press the # key again.