Monday, June 29, 2020
 More Than Good Intentions

“What can we do?”    

That question has been the refrain for many people in conversations about the issues of systemic racism that we as a country, and particularly white people in the U.S., have been wrestling with in new and profound ways since the murder of George Floyd and the rise of the racial justice protest movement.
It is the right question, because the question itself recognizes that it not enough to make statements as individuals and organizations declaring that we stand against systemic racism and white supremacy. While good intentions and supportive words are all important, they have little power to effect change on their own; they must be fulfilled through concrete action.
As Christians, this work for justice is at the very heart of our discipleship of Jesus Christ, whose commitment to serving those who are poor, excluded, or oppressed was at the very heart of his public ministry. In fact, since discipleship means to follow someone, it is worth remembering that the one we follow began that public ministry with a declaration of purpose and intent in his hometown synagogue: “ The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free,   to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19).

And then the rest of his ministry was practically defined by him doing exactly that in his ministries of teaching, healing, and hospitality. Intention, in other words, was followed by action.
At the end of the last session of “Faith in Living Color,” the three-week adult education class about racial justice and Christian Faith taught by Pastor Austin ( click here for the videos of each class ) , he announced a new initiative within the congregation to help us start to put our intentions and commitments to the ministry of antiracism into action.
“The 21-Day Racial Justice Immersion Project” takes its name from two sources. The word “immersion” is a reference to one of the most well-known verses about justice in the Bible: “Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (Amos 5:24). The prophet Amos calls God’s people to be immersed in the waters of justice, to plunge themselves into God’s work for justice, and this project will help us to understand the realities of systemic racial injustice in the United States and how we can be part of helping wash them away.

The second source for the title is also a major source for the project itself: the work of Dr. Eddie Moore, Jr., a prominent educator and thought leader on issues of racial diversity and privilege.
Dr. Moore created a “21-Day Racial Equity Challenge” to help people develop “good habits” of working for racial justice. Research suggests that it takes 21 days of intentional, daily practice to break a bad habit and develop a new one. Dr. Moore developed a set of practices to facilitate this goal, and has encouraged organizations throughout society to adapt and build on his work. (If you are curious, you can learn more about Dr. Moore’s work here.)
With his encouragement, we are adapting Dr. Moore’s work to shape our own, and are grateful for his wisdom in developing his work and his generosity in sharing it.

The 21-Day Racial Justice Immersion Project at First Pres will begin officially this Wednesday, July 1. By evening, you will be able to go to and find details on how to participate in the project.

Put simply, though, the project involves you making a commitment to take at least one action per day for 21 days to advance the work of antiracism in your own life, faith, and ministry. You can choose from a range of opportunities that will be provided on the webpage above, which cluster in five main action groups:

1.      LEARN - Read/watch/listen to a resource from a curated list of books, articles, podcasts, and videos.

2.      NOTICE - Follow guidelines and exercises provided to help you become more aware of patterns of racial injustice in everyday life, culture, institutions, and other spheres of society ( i.e., politics, economics, etc.).
3.      CONNECT - Follow and engage educators, activists, organizations and thought leaders from a curated list who are working on various issues and intersections of race, racism, and society.

4.      ENGAGE – Take concrete actions to engage others in racial justice work; promote BIPOC [1] voices; support BIPOC-owned businesses; and disrupt racist words, behaviors, and systems when you encounter them. Suggestions and resources to facilitate this work will be provided.
5.      REFLECT - Think and write about what you are learning and the impact of this work on your feelings and perspectives.

While you can start the immersion project at any time, if you do it in July, you have the added benefit of two Zoom gatherings for group reflection and support led by Pastor Austin as you do so: one on Sunday, July 12, at 10 a.m.; and a second on Tuesday, July 21, at 7 p.m.

We think this project is some of the most important ministry we can be doing at this moment, and that it is an excellent way to answer the question, “what can we do?”.

Because this project is designed not simply to address the moment, but to help you and our congregation develop the “habit” of antiracism ministry both for now and for the future. We hope you will join in doing so!

[1] BIPOC = Black, Indigenous, and People of Color