Dear Beloved Community,
We want to share information about something that happened at our church. We begin with a content warning, knowing that for Black folks and People of Color, this information about racialized harm has the potential of compounding hurt and trauma.
On a Sunday last month, our staff noticed racial slurs targeting UCUCC staff members written on a whiteboard in our office. We don’t know who wrote it, why it was written, or when it was written. It was clear by the language (targeting specific staff members by name) and the location (inside the office and not a public area) that this was written by someone within the University UCC community.
We know this is difficult news to process. It might feel hard to imagine that someone in our community would do something like this. We invite you to take a deep breath, and notice how you are responding. Scripture tells us to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. These four elements describe our whole selves. They also could represent places where we notice we are responding, especially when dealing with hard news.
As you process this incident, we invite you to use a framework from Race and Faith that we’ve used at Seabeck, with our racial justice teams, and by our racial & equity consultants who talk about the four quadrants of thinking, feeling, acting, and believing. As you hear that racial slurs were written in our space, and that the vandalism was done by someone in our congregation, where are you responding? Which part is most activated for you?
- Heart: Is your strongest response with your emotions? Are you aware of the feelings you are carrying? What are those feelings?
- Strength: Are you wanting to do something? Do you feel like there is some action we need to take?
- Mind: Are you wanting to learn more? Are you seeking facts or wanting to know more details?
- Soul: In this space of faith, are you responding because your values have been violated? How does this impact your belief systems? Where does this connect with your beliefs about our congregation and community?
Perhaps for you there is a strong connection with one of these descriptions. Or maybe it is just a mash-up of all of them. We invite you to pay attention to what you are noticing and what questions are rising up.
We also invite you to consider how this racialized vandalism fits into a wider context of our congregation. This is a concrete example of harm happening to People of Color in our community, and amplifies the importance of coming together as a church to dismantle racism. This isn’t an isolated incident; we know People of Color at our church have endured hurtful racialized words and actions. This too can be a place of prayer and reflection.
As your pastors, part of our role in the community is to help hold the impact of this with you. Because the vandalism happened within our workspace, all of our church staff are carrying a level of violation from this incident. We want to be present for you as you process this news, and we acknowledge that how we are personally processing this moment is intrinsically connected to who we are and the personal experiences we bring to our work. As your pastors—but also as a Black woman, a white man, and a white woman– we have different perspectives and experiences, and we are impacted differently by this difficult event. If you need to talk to a pastor about this, please ask if we have the emotional and spiritual capacity to meet that need right now. If you need a place to process this with someone who knows our congregation but is not within it, our racial justice consultants Cynthia MacLeod and Diane Schmitz can be available. Our Racial Justice Steering Committee is thinking about how we might provide some ways to process in small groups, and we will share more about that when possible.
Please, pray for our congregation and our staff. Though we face obstacles on the path of justice, we know we are not alone. God is with us, providing comfort and protection when we are in need.