- Trinity Voices
Our Commitment to Anti-Racism at Trinity Church
Dear Trinity Church and friends,
Grace and Peace and Thursday greetings. I hope this message finds you and yours continuing to take care and stay well.
On the last Sunday of the liturgical year, the Church celebrates “The Reign of Christ,” with lessons, hymnody, and prayers anticipating the fulfillment of God’s hopes for the creation: a cosmos finally ordered by the Gospel values of justice and mercy – of selflessness, companionship, and love. We at Trinity Church will mark “The Reign of Christ” this Sunday, November 22, with the first of three, 2020-2021 Forums that will comprise the Anne Berry Bonnyman Symposium (ABBS).
Honoring the Rev. Anne Berry Bonnyman, Trinity Church Rector from 2006-2011, the ABBS provides our parish with a living platform for addressing systemic racism in our Church and wider communities. On March 8, 2020 – our last, in-person Sunday together – the ABBS hosted the Rev. Dr. Michael Battle, General Theological Seminary Professor of Church and Society. His presentation on the history of race in The Episcopal Church moved parish leadership and Steering Committee members Suki Garcia, Laura Janneck, and Tim Lay, to explore further this
Church-focus and to strategize Sunday-evening events for this “From-Home” Program Year.
Our three ABBS Forums will explore elements of Christian worship and faith – Space, Sound, and Spirit – through a lens of anti-racism. Focusing first on Space and emphasizing our Trinity Church worship setting, this Sunday’s program will feature Dr. Anthea Butler, Associate Professor of Religious Studies and Africana Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Butler, the President-Elect of the American Society for Church History, will ask, “Can a space be raced?” reflecting on history’s “racing” of Christian worship spaces and pointing toward pathways for the Church’s anti-racist renewal.
This Sunday’s Forum continues a longer journey toward the Gospel transformation of our parish and world. Aspiring to be an anti-racist Trinity community, I have been working and learning in collaboration with our Anti-Racism Team (ART) to braid, expand, and strengthen complementary ministries that advance us toward the Reign of Christ.
To that end, the Senior Warden and I launched a Task Force on Justice and Reparations this summer, actioning the urgency sparked by the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and too many others. Recognizing the historical privilege of our congregation and working with the Anti-Racism Team, I have charged the Task Force to examine our history and identify the repentances required to fulfill our potential as a powerful force for Good. The Task Force’s membership and a list of currently active ART members may be found at the bottom of this message.
The Task Force’s creation witnesses our recognition that, in one way or another, all people of color experience the fear generated from this violence. Black Americans, broadly, and African-Americans, specifically, deeply feel these horrors, and God calls every member of Trinity Church to honor and acknowledge this pain, however we are invited and for as long as needed. Likewise, all our ministries should witness love, presence, and concern for people of color in our parish and wider community.
Even as I name these essential commitments, my experience suggests that white America fatigues easily when anti-racist initiatives require behavior costly to our status, security, and comfort. This must change. Our creation of an anti-racist Trinity must manifest as a daily devotion to which we commit ourselves for the rest of our lives. Therefore, the work of anti-racism must begin in our hearts and homes – in our being, before our doing. This interior work does not prove easy, nor should it, as we interrogate ourselves and environments, laboring to eradicate the sin of racism.
Trinity’s Anti-Racism Team has devoted itself to the internal transformation of its members and our parish through a variety of initiatives: book clubs (to deepen our understanding of the many forms of racism), talking circles (to address topical issues), special events, and compiling the Anti-Racism Prayer Book. These efforts manifest insights gleaned from the Team’s engagements with Crossroads Anti-Racism Training Organization, whose expertise provides common language and process to express and address the patterns and historical origins of racist behavior.
As a parish, Trinity has a long history with Crossroads, and members of the ART have secured two, Zoom-delivered versions of their training, titled, “Introductions to Systemic Racism,” for late January and early February. Each session can accommodate up to 40 parishioners, and registration will be posted soon. I hope you will join me in these experiences that can be for us spiritual and educational awakenings.
The Task Force on Justice and Reparations will have the equally difficult work of addressing the broader community, which often identifies Trinity through our treasured building, its architecture, and its artwork. Confronting our history and identifying the repentances required, the Task Force will examine the building’s indebtedness to wealth accumulated from profits of the slave trade, as well as any continuing investments that betray our Gospel intentions.
Further, I believe that the most effective, ongoing expression of our commitment to anti-racism must involve money – and not a symbolic contribution, but a truly sacrificial, redemptive investment in justice. Therefore, I have asked the Task Force to consider financial reparations to atone for the sins of slavery and racism. The wealth and income disparity between Black and white Americans has its roots in slavery and systemic racism – “the unjust head start in wealth accumulation, income, and educational opportunities that were denied to African-Americans,” as Black entrepreneur, Robert Johnson, identifies the challenge before us as a country.
In faithful response to these conditions, I believe the American Church should not wait for our government to make reparations on our behalf or to compel our own. Rather, I believe the Church should model a righteous response, and that we at Trinity Church in the City of Boston should lead these efforts, using whatever influence we have to call others to do the same.
In a common spirit, our parish continues to invest annually almost one-million dollars in cash and in-kind contributions to Trinity Boston Connects (TBC, formerly the Trinity Boston Foundation), the separate, 501c3 organization founded by Trinity Church and focused on anti-racism. Expressing its three Essential Community Practices (Trauma-Informed Care, Racial Equity, and Restorative Justice) TBC seeks to heal the damage of racism in our community, and to renew Boston as an anti-racist city. TBC’s five core programs – Sole Train, Trinity Education For Excellence Program (TEEP), Trinity@McCormack, Organizational Equity Practice (OEP), and the Trinity Boston Counseling Center (TBCC) – serve youth of color and those individuals and organizations who work with communities of color.
While the pandemic has complicated TBC’s delivery of its programs, the creativity and commitment of its staff and partners have inspired me. With the leadership of Executive Director, Charmane Higgins, now in her second academic year, we are also completing a three-year, strategic-planning process with Social Ventures Partners (SVP). In support of Charmane’s work, I have spent the last eight months in regular, frequent, and consequential meetings with TBC’s Strategic-Planning Committee, whose work should complete after the first of the year. At that time, I look forward to sharing with the parish the organization’s refined focus and vision.
Finally, in addition to the ministries of the Anti-Racism Team, the Task Force on Justice and Reparations, and TBC, the Leadership Development Task Force (LDTF) also nears the conclusion of its work. As announced at our Annual Parish Meeting last March, I charged the LDTF to make recommendations to the Vestry that will help us as a congregation support the healthiest possible portfolio of ministries, and the broadest possible assembly of leaders at Trinity Church. To inform its work, Task Force members surveyed and conducted interviews with every active ministry in our parish. During the summer, the Task Force sharpened its interview questions of leaders to ask explicitly how Trinity has and has not confronted racism in our ministries. Beyond our walls, the LDTF conducted interviews with churches across the country, asking other congregations to share ways in which they are creating more inclusive and diverse ministries.
The LDTF plans to present its report to the Vestry at its December meeting, and then to the parish at our Annual Parish Meeting. As a first point of impact, their work will inform our early-winter nomination process. With this as an aim from the outset, our Nominations Chair, Barbara Dortch-Okara, has partnered with our Junior Warden, Jill Norton, to co-convene the LDTF, modeling the shared leadership that is itself a best-practice of anti-racist organizations.
In closing, I elevate our 2020-2021 Program Year theme – A Home for Faith – which reinforces our building a church home that expresses God’s hopes for the world and anticipates the Reign of Christ. During these difficult times – separated by a pandemic, suffering for our national politics – God charges us to hold each other tightly and to share the Good News generously. Take heart, then, and trust that God remains with us in all these labors. Therefore, friends:
Let us spend time together.
Let us pray together
Let us read together.
Let us work together.
Let us love together, and
let us love one another,
all in the name of the one who loved us first,
Jesus Christ, our Lord.
As we will pray this Sunday:
Almighty and everlasting God, whose will it is to restore all things in your well-beloved Christ, the King of kings and Lord of lords: Mercifully grant that the peoples of the earth, divided and enslaved by sin, may be freed and brought together under your most gracious rule; who lives and reigns with your Christ and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
In hope and in continuing prayer for you all,
The Rev. Morgan S. Allen
Currently Active Anti-Racism Team Members Include:
Jane M. Bowers
C. Monroe Chase
Marcus O. P. DeFlorimonte
The Rev. Patrick Ward
Stephanie Bode Ward
The Task Force on Justice and Reparations:
The Rev. Tom Kennedy (retired)
Cynthia Staples, Supervisor of Visitor Services and Research and Development
Mark Morrow, Senior Warden
Jill Norton, Junior Warden