The second part of the post written by Becky Howcroft on support from White Churches taking action on racism continues here with guidance on the actions of communal listening, effective action and leadership development
As an organiser, I would venture that congregations as a whole need to be led into and supported to carry out actions, as a part process of repentance. I would argue that this is particularly relevant for white majority congregations, who up until now, have not considered racism to be an issue that affects them because “they don’t have many people of colour within their church.” Other churches might not know where to start when it comes to those actions of repentance.
Community organising provides some tools which are useful in this process of repentance action– and I want to highlight three of these tools which churches can take on board.
Firstly, the tool of communal listening and the sharing of testimony – churches can train their people to facilitate small group conversations and one-to-one conversations right across their congregations to reflect and talk through how they have been affected by racism and to hear each others stories. White majority churches could reach out to black majority churches and organise conversations and testimony sharing between their members to provoke deeper reflection, understanding and confession.
Secondly, the tool of taking effective action. Racism is a huge problem which needs to be distilled down into tangible, actionable issues within institutions and communities if a difference is to be made in people’s everyday lives. This applies to the way racism affects churches themselves as institutions, and the way that racism affects the institutions that their people and local communities interact with everyday (such as their schools; their workplaces; public transport networks et cetera). The process of organising helps institutions to move from thinking about problems, to identifying issues – and helps them to work directly with those who hold power to bring about change on those issues.
Thirdly, the tool of leadership development – one of the pillars of community organising is developing leaders. This is done through participating through the organising process and through supporting and facilitating institutions to reorient themselves, so they pursue more of a relational model of leadership and make space and time for leadership development. The leadership of many churches in our city – in all areas of church life, is often predominantly white – so using this tool to purposefully develop leaders from different ethnic backgrounds could have a real impact on the issue of racism across the church as a whole.
Justice is an action – and racism is a justice issue. We need power to make the action that we take result in real change which effects peoples lives. We can talk about speaking truth to power – but we will only be heard if we have a seat at the table with those who hold power, and the only way we will get that seat at the table is if we stand in alliance with others.
Leeds Citizens is in the process of developing a citywide Racial Justice campaign that will incorporate listening, learning, action and leadership development; a campaign which we hope will do some justice and gain a seat at the table of power for people of colour; both within our churches and in our city. We want to encourage churches to consider participating in this alliance – to stand in solidarity with others so we can see change happen, not only in the life of our own congregations but also in the wider structures and institutions of the city of Leeds which affect the communities that we desire to serve and reach.
For more information about how to get involved in the campaign/to register for the September event please contact LCI at https://lcileeds.org/contact-us/