An historic peace church in the heart of Elgin

All Things New…

notes from Pastor Katie May, 2019

Talking About White Privilege

When the Community Engagement Team planned for a Lenten series on race, I carried what I thought were ambitious expectations about who would attend and what we might discuss. If a dozen white people from our congregation would have gathered to educate ourselves on the impact of race, racism, and white privilege on our lives, our church, and our world, I would have been more than satisfied. After all, talking about race can be uncomfortable work, especially for us white people. However, those supposedly ambitious expectations were completely blown away for six Wednesdays this Lent as over sixty individuals attended one, some, or all sessions of our "Let's Talk: White Privilege" series based on a curriculum produced by the United Church of Christ.

Many of the folks who attended were from outside of our congregation. A good portion of the folks from the community were people of color. Using videos, readings, and activities from the planned series as a jumping off point, we found ourselves having brave conversations about race, racism, and our personal spiritual autobiographies through the lens of race. When the series concluded, many expressed a disappointment to see these sessions come to an end.

Some outside of the congregation came because they had seen the invitation on Facebook or in printed materials posted around our church building when in our building for other community events. Some came at the invitation of friends within our congregation. There seemed to be a shared desire or at least openness to doing the difficult personal and interpersonal work of learning to see race and racism, to lessen its impact on us and on our world. I would say indeed that there seems to be hunger for opportunities such as this one to have brave conversations about race.

I wonder what opportunity for ministry might our congregation step into after the conclusion of this series. How does this work connect to the congregation's historic work on Equal Housing, the Sanctuary movement, and our nearly two decades of worship exchange with Second Baptist or even our recent work in advocating for affordable housing at the site of the old Larkin Center?

One of the series' activities was to do a "white audit" of your church or organization. In other words, who writes the books and hymns your congregation uses? Who attends worship? Who is pictured in art work or published materials? Spoiler alert: despite some efforts, our congregation is still largely white under that study. I am left wondering what to make of our congregation's predominant whiteness in a not predominantly white city.

I wonder how our hearts and our understandings of God may expand when we learn to see race and racism more clearly. I wonder how our friendships might be changed. I wonder how our church's engagement with our local community might change.

I wonder what God will lead us toward if we continue opening ourselves to transformational conversations like this series has sought to provide.

If you would like to join in an upcoming opportunity to discuss race and our local community, please feel warmly invited to a Wednesday, May 22, 7 p.m. gathering at Second Baptist Church. Early in the month Pastor Edmond (Second Baptis Church of Elgin), Pastor Karen Schlack (First Presbyterian Church), Pastor Carol Book (Bethlehem Evangelical Lutheran), and myself will gather to plan what I hope will be a meaningful opportunity to have more brave and transformative conversation on race.

I think one of my big learnings from this series was to continue trying to grow a humble spirit, so that I can be open to correction when I do inevitably act out of the racism so ingrained in me and in the broader culture in which I have lived my life. Rather than trying in vain to defend my unblemished perfection, I have found humility and curiosity to be helpful guides when I inevitably mess up. I trust more opportunities will arise for me to practice messing up and learning from my mistakes!

I am so grateful for this congregation's courage and faithfulness in this ministry. Thank you especially to Wendy McFadden who co-led this series, to Jim Lehman and Tim Stauffer who helped with sound and tech needs, to Debbie Noffsinger for her meaningful art work in our promotional materials, to everyone who attend and participated, and to Cheryl Gray and Tom Trengove who cared for our dinner for six Wednesdays in a row! What an honor it is to be in ministry with this congregation, and to pay attention with you to where God may call us next. 

Christ's Peace,

Pastor Katie


Sunday worship service  9:30 a.m.  All are welcome!

Fellowship time   10:30 a.m.  Vsitors, take a blue mug  : )

Sunday school  11:00 a.m.  through May 19; classes resume in the Fall

Wednesday Morning Bible study 10 a.m. each week. We will study the scripture text that will be used for our worship service the following Sunday. Join us for a spirited, open discussion!