As followers of Jesus, we have a responsibility to act when our neighbors are suffering.
The Justice Ministry Team continually works to provide education and action opportunities to help our faith community respond..
Below are programs and projects the congregation has pursued as part of its racial justice work.
Additional details about upcoming programs will be added as they arise.
Originally a Facebook post, in response to the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, posted on June 1, 2020 accompanied by the image below.
As a predominantly white congregation, we ask the forgiveness of our sisters and brothers of color for all of the ways we have participated in systems of oppression, for the ways of which we are aware, and those our privilege has blinded us to. We ask this knowing whatever we say will be imperfect, insufficient, and may cause division. We speak because we are the church, called to confession and lament and to stand alongside all who grieve and cry out for justice.
As we seek to respond to this moment in our country’s history, we might do the following:
Be Outraged Like Jesus. Jesus was constantly outraged about the plight of the poor and the oppressed. As we watch the riots unfolding before us, we might ask what parts of them outrage us. Is it the destruction of property? The lack of funding for predominantly black schools? Mass incarceration? White supremacists infiltrating protests? If we’re more outraged about looting than about the loss of human life, we’re not outraged like Jesus.
Admit What We Don’t Know. Racism is more complex than individual feelings towards those of other races. Take this opportunity to learn from one of the many powerful resources available. Examples include the books White Fragility (DiAngelo), The Warmth of Other Suns (Wilkerson) and How to Be an Anti-Racist (Kendi). Parents, talk about racism with your kids; there are great books like Separate is Never Equal (Tonatiuh) and Something Happened in Our Town (Celano). If you’re looking for a great place to start, see this Sojourners article: https://sojo.net/artic…/our-white-friends-desiring-be-allies. (See below for more resources)
Be Bold. Christians are called to speak up against injustice, even if it costs us something. If we are afraid, we might remember that people of color are afraid all the time. Instead of retreating, we can use the fears we might have of saying something insensitive, rocking the boat, or offending a friend as a way of aligning ourselves with those who have fears much greater than these. Pray for courage. Pray for the willingness to do the right thing, even if it costs us something. Pray for the health, safety, and flourishing of people you don’t know, and may never meet. Pray and look for opportunities to be allies to people of color. Pray for the courage to live the costly life of a Christian.
Grieve. Grieve with those who have been watching their children suffer and die for generations due to violence and systems designed to enslave and oppress. Grieve for the business owners struggling to rebuild. Grieve for law enforcement leaders who must summon the willingness and courage to make needed reforms. Grieve for people of color whose safety and health are too often ignored in conversations about re-opening our country. Grieve for ourselves, who are coming face to face with our need for repentance.
Come, Lord Jesus – live among us, and make all things new.
The brothers and sisters pictured:
FIRST ROW: George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Walter Scott, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin
SECOND ROW: Michael Brown, Philando Castile, Stephon Clark, Natasha McKenna, Ezell Ford, Tanisha Anderson, Eric Reason
THIRD ROW: Oscar Grant, Alton Sterling, Alonzo Smith, Michael Lorenzo Dean, Pamela Turner, Anthony Hill, Terence Crutcher
Periodically the First Pres community gathers for a time of conversation and learning. Past topics we have explored include healing & restoration, voting rights, lament, the Black church, housing inequality, and implicit bias.
Racial Justice Photo Essays
During the Summer of 2020, members of First Pres participated in three book studies to learn about the presence of racism in our country. One church member was inspired by the conversations to create a Racial Justice Journeys photo essay. He invited members of the book groups to write their "ah ha" moments, to share when and how they came to recognize racism more fully around them and how they responded.
Racial Justice Protest March
On Saturday, June 27, 2020 the youth of Sanji Strong organized a racial justice protest march through the streets of downtown West Chester. As one of our community partners, several members of First Pres were eager to show their support by providing water bottles, cheering them on along the route, and marching with them. You can read more about the march through the Daily Local's article and see photos from local photographer Peter Guman below.
Photos by Peter Guman: pgumanphoto.com
Summer Book Study
During the summer of 2020, after George Floyd's murder, members of First Pres came together to learn in hopes of better understanding the effects of racism in our country and how we, as people of faith, can respond with and through God's love. Three book discussion groups were formed to read White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism, How To Be an Anti-Racist, and Dear Church: A Love Letter from a Black Preacher to the Whitest Denomination in the US.